THE LONGER HOUSTON WAITS TO MAKE A MOVE, THE HIGHER THE PRICE WILL GO.

The time is now for Astros to get in the arms race and get their man

Composite photo by Jack Brame

When Brad Peacock was scratched from his start against the Angels Monday night due to lingering shoulder issues it should have been the final straw. After Framber Valdez couldn't get out of the first inning in his start against the Rangers last week and the Jose Urquidy experiment failed to impress, the writing is all over the wall that Houston needs to get into the arms race and trade for pitching help before the prices go up and the teams involved do too. The time is now for GM Jeff Luhnow to make a move for a starting pitcher or two and beat the heat that is sure to be straight fire by the time we hit the final week in July. With only one trade deadline this year and so many teams within striking distance of a wild card at the very least, it would seem to me that the sooner the Astros can complete a deal for the main weakness remaining on the roster, the better off the squad will be.

Astros Forrest Whitley, Josh James Composite photo by Jack Brame

The Yankees are the main competition for the Astros in the race for best record in the American League and home field advantage will go a long way in deciding which of the two teams gets out of the AL with a birth in the World Series and the other goes home wishing they had been able to do more. New York is also Houston's number one competition in the sprint to obtain starting pitching before the trade deadline at the end of July. The Yanks are rumored to be in the market for not one, but two starting pitchers to solidify the biggest weakness on thier club and compliment the powerful and destructive offensive lineup they fill out their batting order with on a nightly basis. The Red Sox and Athletics have already made moves to strengthen their rotation with the addition of Andrew Cashner and Homer Baily respectively. When you factor in the numerous teams in the National League that are within shouting distance of a Wild Card, including the Reds and Diamondbacks and others that started the year not given a chance to sniff the post season, it becomes even more imperative that the 'Stros act fast and avoid the rush. Houston loves their top prospects and Luhnow has been very cautious when considering trades that involve his blue chip youngsters like Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley. Teams that are going to be sellers are ecstatic that so many teams may be in the market to buy at the deadline, which will cause bidding wars and the inevitable urge to over pay to guarantee they get the help they desperately need for a stretch run.

Astros Gerrit Cole Composite photo by Brandon Strange

Depending on the contract status of the players Luhnow and the Astros are interested in, the price will fluctuate accordingly. A player under contract for a few more years will have a much higher price tag than a player in the final year of his deal who will be looked at as a rental more than a long term solution to a short-term need. Houston isn't quite sure how much of a long-term need they will have, but do realize that Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley are free agents in the offseason and there's some uncertainty as to how healthy and capable Lance McCullers will be next season as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. Peacock and Colin McHugh have not had the season that the organization expected and therefore there are more question marks than answers for their long-term future as potential arms in the rotation. All of this on top of thier other top pitching prospect Corbin Martin shelved for the foreseeable future after he was diagnosed with arm issues serious enough to require his own Tommy John surgery. It's crazy to think that a position group that was universally looked at as one of the best rotations in the game could now be facing a dilemma of needing to make at least one move for a starter to keep them in contention to compete for the AL crown.

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Some possibilities that are on the market and could help Houston in thier starting pitching issues are Marcus Stroman, Madison Bumgarner, Robbie Ray and Matthew Boyd, with the longshot being Noah Syndergaard if the Mets become sellers and decide to make the power pitcher available. Of those mentioned, Bumgarner would be a rental and cost the least while Syndergaard would probably cost the most due to his experience, contract and productivity on a really bad team. One other factor to keep in mind is the Astros have found the Blue Jays to be a friendly trade partner in recent moves that included Roberto Osuna and Aledmys Diaz. I say that to say that Marcus Stroman is a quality arm that the Blue Jays will almost certainly move before the deadline and if the two sides can work something out again, he would be just what the doctor ordered to boost the Astros staff and solidify their patchwork starting rotation. Regardless of who they like and who Luhnow targets, the time is now to act fast and get the guy you want before you get in a bidding war and get caught holding the bag instead of all the cards.

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Keep an eye on Alex Bowman this weekend. Image via: Wiki Commons.

For the first time since July 1984, NASCAR returns to one of its most popular cities in Nashville, Tennessee for the inaugural Ally 400 at Nashville Super Speedway. This track is a 1 1/3rd mile concrete oval that was dormant for nearly ten years and was only used as a testing facility. So it came as a bit of a surprise last season when it was announced that this track would be getting a date. For a lot of drivers, this will be a brand new racetrack, but we will see practice and qualifying, so that will be a huge help for the newcomers that haven't raced here before. Back when the Xfinity and Trucks ran here, this track featured a lot of first time winners. Back in 2008, future NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski shocked the world by jumping in Dale Jr's car and capturing his first win here. There will be a lot of veterans like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who have plenty of experience at this track, but it will be tough to compare. It should be fun with everyone coming into this race with minimal knowledge.

Last week, Kyle Larson continued his hot streak by winning the All-Star Race. Overall, while Larson and his Hendrick teammates probably enjoyed the race, the feedback from crews and fans was less than positive. As I was walking through the garage area and talking to a few crew members, a lot of them were very critical of the 450 horsepower motor and the tall spoiler to try and keep the cars bunched up. When I asked one of the crew-members what he thought about the package he told me, "Oh it's awful. The track is terrible, the package makes it impossible to pass and it's super hot out here." On green flag runs, it was the same as it ever was as the lead car would pretty much take off and the only time there was really any "pack racing" it came after there were restarts. The whole race was well-intentioned and the fans showed up as it was nearly a capacity crowd, but the whole thing just didn't make any sense. From the start time being in the nearly 100 degree heat to the wacky full-field invert at the end of each stage. Let's hope that next season's All-Star Race is a lot more concise.

In Silly Season news this week, Truck Series regulars GMS racing announced that they would be fielding a full-time cup series team. The team is currently owned by Allegiant Airlines CEO Maurice Gallagher and his son, Spencer, who used to drive for them in the Xfinity Series. This move seemed to come from out of nowhere as there was never any indication that this was a move they were exploring anytime soon after they turned down the opportunity to purchase Furniture Row Racing in 2019. This is certainly a great sight for the sport as there will be more new teams on the track and with their close relationship with Chevy, it wouldn't be a surprise if they step in and help this team become competitive. The favorite to drive their car has to be 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed. He has easily been their best driver in trucks, and it would make the most sense for him to get the promotion.

This week at Nashville, the driver that I have winning is Alex Bowman. Now while this is a brand new racetrack and he has a grand total of zero starts here, this track suits his driving style perfectly. With the inclusion of this track, there are now four tracks with a concrete surface. Nashville, Bristol, Dover and Martinsville. At the three of the tracks they have run at, he has shown a lot of speed, including a victory at Dover this season and a top ten finish at Bristol. This is also a track where crew-chief Greg Ives said Bowman has gravitated towards during testing. In an interview with Sirius XM Ives was quoted as saying "we used to have a lot of fun testing there," so this is clearly a track that they both enjoy going to. Another big factor going into Sunday will be just how fast these Hendrick Motorsports cars are, they have finished 1-2 over the last four points races. He has watched his teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott have immense success, and now this week I think he is due for a third win of the season. Look for the bright purple #48 Chevy to go to victory lane this week at Nashville.

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