The latest rumor is Hopkins could be available, so how could the Texans move on from the star

Would the Texans trade DeAndre Hopkins?

DeAndre Hopkins and the Texans were oh, so close. Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Peter King brought up the rumor. Let's dive into the potential for a Hopkins move.

The rumor

The full rumor from Peter King in his Football Morning in America column on Monday.

"It might be just pre-draft chatter, but two teams over the weekend told me to watch Houston and DeAndre Hopkins, who has three years and a reasonable $40 million left on his contract, and who'd cause only a $3-million cap hit to the Texans if they traded him. Houston is currently in draft hell, without a top-50 pick in 2020 and 2021, and coach Bill O'Brien has huge needs to fill on his offensive line, in the secondary and overall youth on the front seven; J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus will play this year at 31 and 30."

I have also heard Hopkins and O'Brien haven't always heard the coziest relationship.

There is no way the Texans offensive line could be considered as having "huge needs" to fill. The Texans will have every spot with the exception of right guard locked up and likely unchallenged for multiple years when Laremy Tunsil gets his contract extension.

Yes, there is concern about pass rushing age. That's what free agency is for and that isn't a need for 2020 or perhaps even 2021.

The money

Hopkins is wildly underpaid. WILDLY. He is the best wideout in football, and if not the best easily top three.

Whatever team gets him would have him on an amazing deal. It would cost just $3 million for the Texans to trade Hopkins and would lead to a savings of $11 million according to Spotrac.

The idea the Texans might be scared of Hopkins wanting a new contract doesn't make sense. Again, it doesn't make sense.

The new CBA has massive penalties for a player who is sitting out training camp. There is no leverage for Hopkins to try to get a new contract. None. So worries about a new deal would be silly. Unfortunate for Hopkins that the market outpaced him but the Texans have no reason to even entertain a new deal for Hopkins and again, Hopkins has no leverage.

What could the Texans get?

Odell Beckham went with a player for a first round pick and a third round pick. The Giants also got back two solid players in safety Jabrill Peppers and guard Kevin Zeitler.

If you drop the players and add draft compensation the Texans could certainly rebuild the lack of top draft picks. It is worth noting, most consider this the deepest and best wideout draft class in a while. Would two first round picks or a first and a couple of second round picks get it done?

Amari Cooper was traded for just a first round pick.

Is this enough? Certainly doesn't seem like it would be for a player who has been consistent his whole career and also isn't scheduled to be a free agent for three more years and even then will be 30 years old when his contract runs out.

So, will they do it?

God I hope not. Hopkins is the second-best player in the franchise's history and the best offensive player ever. Replacing him with a rookie or veteran, especially when the other wideouts on the roster are unreliable, would be taking a massive step back. It doesn't help the team win in 2020.

Bill O'Brien would be widely criticized for it and he wouldn't be able to show if he is successful right away while Hopkins would likely crush immediately for a new team. He also would have to answer for the move, he is of course the shot-caller now.

It doesn't make sense, but how many times have you seen the Texans operate in a similar manner under O'Brien? A few times. That's the scary part. It is extremely unlikely. Extremely. But not impossible.

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Here's what the data tells us about Bregman. Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Alex Bregman had a rough season in 2020 by his standards. He slashed .242/.350/.451 in 42 regular season games. His regular season included a trip to the 10-day IL for a hamstring strain he suffered in mid-August. His surface-level struggles continued in the postseason, where he slashed .220/.316/.300 in 13 games. However, that postseason sample size does include a tough luck game against the Tampa Bay Rays where he went 0-for-5 with five hard hit balls.

All-in-all, 2020 felt like a lost season for Bregman. He never really got going. He got off to a slow start, but he's always been a slow starter. Once he started to pick it up, he strained his hamstring, and he played poorly after returning from the hamstring strain. Then, he started to turn his batted ball quality around in the playoffs, but he hit into a lot of tough luck outs.

Hard Hit % - 33.6%

Barrel % - 3.9%

K% - 14.4%

BB% - 13.3%

Chase % - 18.1%

Bregman comes from the Michael Brantley school of hitters. He has elite plate discipline and elite bat-to-ball skills. This makes Bregman a fairly consistent hitter. That may sound odd considering his 2020 "struggles" but even an extended period of poor performance for him resulted in a .801 OPS and a 122 wRC+. If his valleys are still 22% better than the league average hitter, then that's a pretty reliable producer.

There aren't any alarming trends in Bregman's statistics. Yes, his K% was slightly up, his BB% is slightly down, but it isn't a massive difference in either category. His Chase % was up, but again, 18.1% is elite discipline. The biggest drop was in his Hard Hit%, where he fell from 38% to 33.6%. Even so, his average exit velocity only dropped .4 MPH, so there's not really a catastrophic trend here.

His .254 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was low, but he's never put up really high BABIP numbers. In fact, his BABIP has gotten worse every year of his career, from .317 to .311 to .289 to .281 to .254. While his BABIP will likely spike back up next year, it isn't enough to be the difference between the 2019 and 2020 versions of himself. His xBA and xSLG weren't out of whack either. His .256 xBA isn't much better than his .240 AVG, and his .400 xSLG is actually worse than his .451 SLG.

Bregman is as forthcoming with his hitting mechanics, approach, and mental cues as any big leaguer out there. Here is what he had to say about his swing this year. This was a Zoom press conference with the media following the Astros game on September 25th against the Rangers.

Bregman says he wants to hit balls in the air to the pull side and on a line to the opposite field, but in reality, he was hitting flares to the opposite field and hitting them on the ground to the pull side.

The data mostly backs up that claim. In 2019, on balls hit to the pull side, Bregman had an average exit velocity of 90.7 MPH at an average launch angle of 16°, a 40% Hard Hit %, and a 16% HR%. Since Bregman has elite bat-to-ball skills, most of those metrics didn't change. In 2020, his average exit velocity was 90.6, essentially the same as 2019. His Hard Hit % was 42%, a touch better than in 2019. However, his average launch angle dipped from 16° to 11°, which contributed to his HR% dropping all the way to 9%. Bregman hit 47% of his pull side swings on the ground. In 2019, that number was 40%. He absolutely had less production to the pull side in 2020.

The data gets a little hazier going the opposite way when comparing 2019 to 2020, as Bregman actually performed slightly better to the opposite field in 2020 than 2019, but he also only had 20 batted balls to the opposite field all season. Considering the small sample size, it isn't worth diving too deep into the data.

He's right that most of the balls he hit that way were flares. He had an average exit velocity of 83.4 MPH with an average launch angle of 32°, but that's about the same as what he did in 2019. A lot of the statistical drop off comes from balls that were backspun rockets to the pull side in 2019 becoming top spinners or roll overs in 2020.

Bregman also performed horribly against breaking balls in 2020. He batted .150 with a .250 SLG against them in 2020. He had an 84 MPH Average Exit Velocity against them and whiffed 26.5% of the time against them.

It was a far cry from 2019, when he hit .265 with a .588 SLG, 87 MPH average exit velo, and whiffed 18% of the time.

Those numbers lend credence to his statement on his mechanics. It's tough for a hitter to have adjustability against breaking balls if he's blowing out his front side and pulling off of the baseball.

Bregman will spend the offseason working on these mechanical fixes and getting back to the hitter he used to be. If he's consistently hitting the ball in the air to the pull side next year, and he's performing better against breaking balls, then he should be right back in the mix for AL MVP.

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