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This bold strategy for retooling the Texans would turn the roster on its head

This bold strategy for retooling the Texans would turn the roster on its head
Cleaning up the mess O'Brien left behind will require some tough decisions. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Texans are a mess. Wait...that would be an understatement. They're more like a dumpster full of by-product outside a hot dog factory that's been sitting for six weeks after being flooded and set ablaze. Yes, it's that bad of a situation. They're devoid of talent, lack the draft picks to make up cheap labor, and have been left in a position of cap hell that's unavoidable. Any general manager that takes this job will need to be given a long leash in order to reshape this roster. Any head coach that comes in will need just as long a leash because he will be working with expired ingredients when he enters this kitchen.

Bill O'Brien did his best to hand out the worst possible contracts he could, it has put the team in a position to have to make some bold moves. While listening to The Press Box on ESPN Houston this Monday, Charlie Pallilo laid out a pretty bold move for the incoming Texans general manager (it starts around the 29:18 mark). Charlie thinks the incoming regime should make roster cuts this offseason in order to set themselves up for a breakout in the '22 season. Pallilo's idea of making several cuts to guys with bad contracts this offseason, and taking the dead money cap hit, it sets the team up to have more money to spend going into the '22 season when they'd also own a full complement of draft picks.

By cutting Whitney Mercilus, Randall Cobb, Eric Murray, Ka'imi Fairbairn, Benardrick McKinney, and Zach Cunningham, the team could open up around $16 million in cap space immediately despite the dead money they'd have to carry. In addition to these moves, he also suggested cutting J.J. Watt, if you can't find a trade partner, and rolling over his $17.5 million in salary to the '22 season in order to stay at the 90% money spent per collective bargaining agreement rules. Bold moves. Yes. But is it worth it?

Detractors would say don't do it. They'd argue you're setting yourself up for failure in the '21 season by getting rid of experienced guys and filling their roster spots with cheaper and possibly not as talented options. Why set yourself up for failure and absorb so much dead money in the '21 season? Why punt on the season without keeping those guys around? A team should always try to win no matter what. To them I'd say, kick rocks!

I was listening live when Pallilo laid out this plan and wholeheartedly agree with him. People need to come to grips with the fact that the '21 season will be a wash. This team isn't getting better heading into next season. They don't have the draft picks necessary to get game-changing young players on the cheap and shouldn't spend the cap space they have left trying to acquire players to fill the voids on this roster. This allows them to maximize their cap space heading into the '22 offseason after a presumably bad '21 season. That bad season in '21 also yields a full compliment of high draft picks that they could use to retool the roster more quickly. As bold as O'Brien was in making this team the laughingstock of the league, the incoming regime will have to be even more bold to turn this disaster around more quickly.

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The Astros have their work cut out for them. Composite Getty Image.

Through 20 games, the Houston Astros have managed just six wins and are in last place in the AL West.

Their pitching staff trails only Colorado with a 5.24 ERA and big-money new closer Josh Hader has given up the same number of earned runs in 10 games as he did in 61 last year.

Despite this, these veteran Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series seven consecutive times, have no doubt they’ll turn things around.

“If there’s a team that can do it, it’s this team,” shortstop Jeremy Peña said.

First-year manager Joe Espada, who was hired in January to replace the retired Dusty Baker, discussed his team’s early struggles.

“It’s not ideal,” he said. “It’s not what we expected, to come out of the shoot playing this type of baseball. But you know what, this is where we’re at and we’ve got to pick it up and play better. That’s just the bottom line.”

Many of Houston’s problems have stemmed from a poor performance by a rotation that has been decimated by injuries. Ace Justin Verlander and fellow starter José Urquidy haven’t pitched this season because of injuries and lefty Framber Valdez made just two starts before landing on the injured list with a sore elbow.

Ronel Blanco, who threw a no-hitter in his season debut April 1, has pitched well and is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three starts this season. Cristian Javier is also off to a good start, going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts, but the team has won just two games not started by those two pitchers.

However, Espada wouldn’t blame the rotation for Houston’s current position.

“It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster how we've played overall,” he said. “One day we get good starting pitching, some days we don’t. The middle relief has been better and sometimes it hasn’t been. So, we’ve just got to put it all together and then play more as a team. And once we start doing that, we’ll be in good shape.”

The good news for the Astros is that Verlander will make his season debut Friday night when they open a series at Washington and Valdez should return soon after him.

“Framber and Justin have been a great part of our success in the last few years,” second baseman Jose Altuve said. “So, it’s always good to have those two guys back helping the team. We trust them and I think it’s going to be good.”

Hader signed a five-year, $95 million contract this offseason to give the Astros a shutdown 7-8-9 combination at the back end of their bullpen with Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly. But the five-time All-Star is off to a bumpy start.

He allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 6-1 loss to the Braves on Monday night and has yielded eight earned runs this season after giving up the same number in 56 1/3 innings for San Diego last year.

He was much better Wednesday when he struck out the side in the ninth before the Astros fell to Atlanta in 10 innings for their third straight loss.

Houston’s offense, led by Altuve, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, ranks third in the majors with a .268 batting average and is tied for third with 24 homers this season. But the Astros have struggled with runners in scoring position and often failed to get a big hit in close games.

While many of Houston’s hitters have thrived this season, one notable exception is first baseman José Abreu. The 37-year-old, who is in the second year of a three-year, $58.5 million contract, is hitting 0.78 with just one extra-base hit in 16 games, raising questions about why he remains in the lineup every day.

To make matters worse, his error on a routine ground ball in the eighth inning Wednesday helped the Braves tie the game before they won in extra innings.

Espada brushed off criticism of Abreu and said he knows the 2020 AL MVP can break out of his early slump.

“Because (of) history,” Espada said. “The back of his baseball card. He can do it.”

Though things haven’t gone well for the Astros so far, everyone insists there’s no panic in this team which won its second World Series in 2022.

Altuve added that he doesn’t have to say anything to his teammates during this tough time.

“I think they’ve played enough baseball to know how to control themselves and how to come back to the plan we have, which is winning games,” he said.

The clubhouse was quiet and somber Wednesday after the Astros suffered their third series sweep of the season and second at home. While not panicking about the slow start, this team, which has won at least 90 games in each of the last three seasons, is certainly not happy with its record.

“We need to do everything better,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “I feel like we’re in a lot of games, but we just haven’t found a way to win them. And good teams find a way to win games. So we need to find a way to win games.”

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