Texans take pride in everything being bigger in the state. That sure was true when it came to the trades that took place before the trade deadline on Tuesday afternoon. With the Texas Rangers already making their splashy trades over the weekend, by getting Max Scherzer, Jordan Montgomery, and Chris Stratton, it was the Houston Astros turn to take the above the fold headlines. They worked a deal with the New York Mets to acquire Justin Verlander.
The Astros have been lurking behind the Rangers the entire season. Before the season began, everyone in baseball picked Houston to repeat as AL West champions this season. Of course, they did. They won the World Series last year, and until knocked off the top of the hill the Astros will remain the favorite.
Over the course of the first four months of the season the Rangers lead has ebbed and flowed. At times they appeared to be able to breathe a bit, but still the Astros have just been back there waiting for a slip up from their state mates in Arlington. And as the Rangers have scuffled about the last two months, the Astros seemed to have done some of the same. The lead is down to 1/2 game at the moment, but that can obviously grow or flip with a win for one team and a loss for the other.
Houston Astros trade for Justin Verlander to counter Texas Rangers trading for Max Scherzer
In staying with the lockstep order that the two clubs have had this season, it is fitting that each big trade was for an aging Mets pitcher that has multiple Cy Young awards (3 each) and are destined to end up in Cooperstown after they hang up their cleats. Verlander's stuff has been better this season, but Scherzer has been no slouch. Scherzer's biggest issue has been giving up the long ball, so that will be a point of emphasis that pitching coach Mike Maddux is sure to focus on with Max. Maddux was Scherzer's pitching coach in 2016-17 when the two were with the Washington Nationals.
Getting Verlander is a really big deal for the Astros. Not only does he want to be there, but he has won two World Series titles with Houston. He also picked up his third Cy Young award with the club just last season. He knows the dynamics of the clubhouse and is familiar with Martin Maldonado who will be his catcher once again.
Houston Astros are the favorite over the Texas Rangers to take the AL West
The baseball pundits love the deal as well, as they immediately named the Astros as the overwhelming favorite, not just in the AL West, but in the entire American League. They gushed and went on about how it was a fantastic fit and a great move. Unfortunately, I can't really argue any of their points. In my opinion the AL West and the AL playoffs were always going to have to go through Houston anyway, this move just resolidified them as the favorites again.
It's not that Chris Young and the Texas Rangers didn't make great trades to improve the team, because they did. It is more about the Astros adding quality players that they have a positive history with (Kendall Graveman was also added and is a former Astro) and being the defending champions.
While the Astros added a couple of quality arms, the Rangers added both quality and quantity. If you take into consideration the trade for Aroldis Chapman in June, the Rangers traded for two solid relievers and two top starters. They also added Austin Hedges to help with the catching while Jonah Heim tries to come back from injury. Hedges could hardly hit his way out of a wet paper sack, but he is a phenomenal defensive catcher and could be a huge asset down the stretch and in any possible postseason run.
Texas Rangers ready for end of season fight
This Rangers team has been performing above most people's expectations all season. Being viewed by outsiders as the underdog isn't going to hurt things. Sometimes a little talk about how good your opponent is, can be a bit of a spark to help push a team to greatness. One thing for sure, is the Rangers have some tough competitors that aren't going to lay down for the Astros. Houston is going to have to earn everything, and Texas won't go down without a fight. They proved that in the series finale last week.
Houston is now the clear favorite, but that doesn't mean they are going to win. I like this Rangers team, I like their manager, I like their heart, I like their construction, I like their fight, and I like the new additions. Unfortunately, I don't have a crystal ball to know how this will all turn out. That is the beauty of sport. Enjoy the ride Ranger's fans, we have been underdogs for a long time. Maybe this year we can work our way up the mountain, or perhaps even to the top.