Results tagged ‘ Jose Valverde ’

Who is the greatest Astros closer of all-time?

With Brett Myers headed to the closer role, it’s time to stroll down memory lane and re-visit some of the Astros’ closers of years gone past. The Astros have had some pretty solid closers through the years, from Joe Sambito to Jose Valverde. In between, there were guys like Doug Jones, Billy Wagner, Octavio Dotel and Brad Lidge.

So, that begs the question…

 

Great day for Astros

Can you imagine how different the Astros’ winter would have been had Jose Valverde accepted arbitration and LaTroy Hawkins accepted their contract offer? The Astros would have liked to have been able to bring Hawkins back and took a huge risk by offering arbitration to Valverde, but the departure of both opened doors and wallets.

Astros general manager Ed Wade signed Brandon Lyon, Pedro Feliz and Brett Myers, traded for Matt Lindstrom and picked up two draft picks, including a first-round pick. Things couldn’t have worked out much better for the Astros, who would have been hamstrung had Valverde accepted arbitration.

Valverde winds up not making as much in 2010 as he would have with the Astros, but he got the comfort of a two-year deal with an option. The Astros got what they wanted, too, and even more. With Spring Training around the corner, the Astros are hitting the finish line of the Hot Stove season with a smile on their faces.

“I thought we entered into the Valverde situation in a win-win situation,” Wade said. “If he had accepted arbitration, we would have ended up with the best free-agent closer on the market. As it turned out, we were able to satisfy the back end of the bullpen with Lyon and Lindstrom and to score draft picks, particularly a first-round draft pick, is very satisfying.

“I like what he did for us and we would have loved to have him back, but at end of the day we have to look at end results and we felt that being able to add two additional draft picks in 2010 is a pretty favorable conclusion for us.”

Have the Astros gotten better?

With most of their major offseason shopping done, the Astros will be limited to adding a few non-roster players between now and the start in Spring Training in two months. In a whirlwind few days at the Winter Meetings earlier this month, the Astros said goodbye to Jose Valverde, LaTroy Hawkins and Miguel Tejada and hello to Matt Lindstrom, Brandon Lyon and Pedro Feliz.

There’s no doubt the Astros got a little bit younger, but did they get better? Valverde and Hawkins at the back end of the bullpen are certainly a better option and more proven than Lindstrom and Lyon. Tejada, even though he’s declining in his mid-30s, would have been a better option at third base than Feliz.

When you consider the economics, the Astros had to move in another direction. Valverde, Hawkins and Tejada made a combined $26 million last season. Owner Drayton McLane wants to cut the payroll to about $95 million from last season’s $107 million, and getting rid of Tejada and Valverde pretty much accomplished that. They would have loved to have Hawkins back, but Milwaukee swooped in and signed him.

Lindstrom is still arbitration eligible and comes at a relative bargain considering his age and his stuff, but Lyon is getting paid $5 million per season. Many around baseball believe the Astros overpaid for Lyon, but it’s not like they gave Carlos Lee a six-year, $100 million deal. Spending a little extra money for a proven pitcher doesn’t make the Astros dumb.

Of course, no matter how good these new additions are, it’s all going to come down to starting pitching. And the Astros are going to need some of their young arms to step up next year — Bud Norris, Felipe Paulino, Wesley Wright or Wilton Lopez. If at least one of these guys doesn’t plug one of the gaps in the rotation, it won’t matter what Lindstrom and Lyon are able to provide.

Valverde decision good news for Astros

The Astros and closer Jose Valverde are likely to part ways after the All-Star closer rejected the club’s offer of arbtration late Monday. That’s not to say the Astros won’t try to re-sign Valverde, but they view him as the most talented closer on the free-agent market, which means he’s going to come at a high price.

The best option for the Astros at this point will be to pursue a closer at a lower cost than Valverde — Mike Gonzalez, Kevin Gregg or Fernando Rodney, anyone? — and still have some money to sign LaTroy Hawkins or another reliever. The Astros are also in the market for a third baseman to add some offensive punch and they need some bench help.

The Braves could be willing trade reliever Rafael Soriano, who accepted arbitration Monday.

If Valverde signs with another team, the Astros will get two draft picks, which is never a bad things. Houston could keep those picks or that use them to sign their own Type A free agent without having to worry about the cost of losing draft picks. The Astros might have tried to put a sad face on the Valverde decision, but it’s probably for the best when you consider the economics.

Astros waiting on Valverde

Astros general manager Ed Wade met with the Houston media contingent at the Winter Meetings at his hotel suite Monday and said how the club proceeds the rest of the week and the rest of the winter depends on closer Jose Valverde.

The Astros have offered Valverde arbitration, and he has until 10:59 p.m. CT to accept or decline. If he accepts, Valverde will be a signed player for one year at likely more than $10 million, which would make it more difficult for the Astros to do anything else roster wise. If he declines, Houston will gain draft picks and will have money to pursue another closer, as well as bench help and an eighth-inning arm.

Wade didn’t anticipate hearing about Valverde until later in the night. Valverde, 31, has saved 69 games in two seasons with the Astros, including 25 in 29 chances this year. He was 4-1 with a 1.76 ERA in his 44 games since being activated from the disabled list in June.

Wade ranked the Astros’ needs in this order: closer, offense, eighth inning and bench. He said adding bench help could happen well down the road.

Meanwhile, Wade said he hasn’t had talks with the agent for infielder Miguel Tejada for two weeks. The last time Wade talked to agent Diego Bentz two weeks ago, he told him Tejada would fit into the Astros’ plans for 2010 at a reduced price and at third base.

“I don’t know where we stand in that regard,” he said.

 

 

Winter Meetings may be quiet for Astros

Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith, general manager Ed Wade, assistant general managers Ricky Bennett, David Gottfried and Bobby Heck and the rest of the club’s front-office crew arrived in chilly Indianapolis late Sunday in advance of baseball’s Winter Meetings.

The Winter Meetings begin Monday and figure to bring some wheeling and dealing, but the Astros likely won’t be making much news. They don’t have a lot of money to spend and don’t have many tradable commodities, but you can’t rule out Wade from doing something.

The No. 1 piece of news figures to come Monday when the Astros find out if closer Jose Valverde accepted arbitration. If he did, he’s a signed player and will return for 2010 at probably around $10 million. If he rejects and signs with another team, the Astros get two draft picks.

Yes, the Astros need starting pitching like every team, but they aren’t in the market for big-name starting pitchers because the market is expensive. Wade wants to add some bench depth, beef up the back end of the bullpen and he will explore third base options.

Houston has already re-signed Geoff Blum to play third base and also can put Jeff Keppinger at third, but Wade would like to beef up the offense at third base if possible.

“We like the job Geoff Blum has done us the last two years or we wouldn’t have signed him,” Wade said. “Geoff did a tremendous job for us defensively and has done a pretty good job overall. We just look at our situation, and if there’s a way to tweak the offense a little bit, we’ll try to do something like that.

“Keppinger can play over there, and [Blum and Keppinger] did a good job for us. Both can play around in the infield and help us. Keppinger’s a very professional hitter and did a good job after he came over here. We’ve got Chris Johnson, and we still think he had a chance to be an outstanding big league player, whether that happens on Opening Day this year or down the road remains to be seen.”

The Astros’ starting outfield of Carlos Lee, Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence is set, and it appears Tommy Manzella could begin the season at shortstop. The right side of the infield has returning starters in Kaz Matsui (second base) and Lance Berkman (first base).

At catcher, Humberto Quintero, J.R. Towles and Jason Castro will compete for the two roster spots, barring some additional roster moves between now and February. There is a chance to the Astros could be in a low-cost free agent to be in the mix.

Astros face arbitration decisions

If you were the general manager of the Astros, what would you do?

The Astros have until Tuesday night to offer salary arbitration to their own free agents – a list that includes shortstop Miguel Tejada, closer Jose Valverde, reliever LaTroy Hawkins, outfielder Jason Michaels and infielder/outfielder Darin Erstad.

Players offered arbitration have until next Monday to decline or accept the offer. If they accept, they are considered signed players and will have their salary determined through an arbitration hearing or negotiations. If they decline, they are still free to sign with the Astros or any other team.

The decision to offer arbitration has high stakes. Tejada, Valverde and Hawkins were classified as Type A free agents, which means the Astros would get draft picks if the players were offered arbitration and sign with another team. If they’re not offered arbitration and sign with another team, the Astros don’t get compensation.

If a Type A player signed with another team after being offered arbitration, the Astros would receive the signing club’s first-round draft pick in next year’s draft (assuming it’s not in the top 15 picks) and a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds. A Type B free agent, such as Doug Brocail, would bring only a sandwich pick.

Tejada made around $14 million last season and appears headed for a healthy pay cut on the free-agent market, which makes it seem unlikely the Astros would offer him arbitration. Valverde, who made $8 million last season, is likely headed for a raise after coming off a season in which he was 4-2 with a 2.33 ERA and converted 25 of 29 saves. He would be less likely to accept arbitration if he was offered by the Astros because he could command a higher salary in free agency.

The Astros have been in negotiations with Hawkins for weeks and are eager to re-sign him to be an option at closer if Valverde leaves. Hawkins had a base salary of $3.5 million last season and made nearly $4 million in incentives and was 1-4 with 11 saves and a 2.13 ERA.

Here’s what I would do:

Jose Valverde: Offer arbitration. He’ll have some strong interest and will likely get a multi-year deal from somebody, so I think it’s doubtful he would accept arbitration. If he does, you have an expensive, but capable closer.

Miguel Tejada: Don’t offer. He’ll get nowhere near the kind of money in the free-agent market than he would in arbitration, which he would accept in a heartbeat. If he wants to come back, it will have to be at a discount. The Astros can’t afford paying a third baseman $14 million next year.

LaTroy Hawkins: Offer arbitration. Sure, he’ll get a raise, but the Astros need the Hawk, especially if Valverde bolts. If he accepts and becomes the closer, he’ll still likely make less than Valverde did in closer’s role last season.

Jason Michaels: Don’t offer. I think the Astros should re-sign him, but I don’t expect there to be a big market for him and he’s not going to bring compensation anyway.

Darin Erstad: Don’t offer. Erstad is one of my favorite guys, but how much does he have left?

 

Free agency begins Friday. Who do you want?

Beginning Friday, the Astros and other teams can open their wallets and start signing free agents. Based on my recent conversations with owner Drayton McLane and general manager Ed Wade — particularly McLane — it doesn’t appear the Astros will be opening their wallets very far. That depends on how you look at it.

The Astros still figure to have a very competitive payroll, but they are in a tight spot. Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt and Kaz Matsui will make a combined $54.5 million next year, and Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn and Wandy Rodriguez are going to get large raises in arbitration. The Astros say they can’t sustain the record $107 million payroll they had last season, but bringing back all the players already under contract could bring it already into the $80 million range.

Add LaTroy Hawkins (let’s say at $5 million) and you’re sitting at about $85 million. That leaves a little wiggle room. Add Jose Valverde ($12 million?) and you’re tapped out. Neither McLane nor Wade willl say exactly what the payroll will be, but if I was forced to guess I would say in the mid-$90 million range. As you can see, that doesn’t leave much room to take any additional contracts.

So, what are the Astros’ needs? A starting pitcher. A back-of-the-bullpen reliever? A right-handed hitting third baseman? Wade seems to think a reliever is the biggest concern. There’s no doubt they need a solid starting pitcher, but this takes us back to economics. A solid starting pitcher to plug into the No. 3 spot in the rotation probably isn’t affordable.

Wade said Wednesday he and his staff have made contact with dozens of available players. He said the Astros will be aggressive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be dishing out a lot of offers.

Here’s a list of available free agents as compiled by mlbtraderumors.com (age is in parenthesis):

Catchers
Eliezer Alfonzo (31)
Brad Ausmus (41)
Paul Bako (38)
Rod Barajas (34) – Type B
Josh Bard (32)
Michael Barrett (33)
Henry Blanco (38)
Ramon Castro (34)
Chris Coste (37)
Sal Fasano (38)
Toby Hall (34)
Jason Kendall (36) – Type B
Jason LaRue (36)
Chad Moeller (35)
Bengie Molina (35) – Type A
Jose Molina (35)
Miguel Olivo (31) – Type B
Mike Redmond (39)
Ivan Rodriguez (38) – Type B
Brian Schneider (33)
Yorvit Torrealba (31) – Type B
Matt Treanor (34)
Javier Valentin (34)
Vance Wilson (37)
Gregg Zaun (39) – Type B

First basemen
Rich Aurilia (38)
Jeff Bailey (31)
Hank Blalock (29)
Russell Branyan (34)
Miguel Cairo (36)
Frank Catalanotto (36)
Tony Clark (38)
Carlos Delgado (38) – Type B
Nomar Garciaparra (36)
Ross Gload (34)
Eric Hinske (32)
Nick Johnson (31) – Type B
Adam LaRoche (30) – Type B
Doug Mientkiewicz (36)
Kevin Millar (38)
Fernando Tatis (35) – Type B
Chad Tracy (30)
Daryle Ward (35)
Dmitri Young (36)

Second basemen
Ronnie Belliard (35) – Type B
Jamey Carroll (36)
Alex Cora (34)
Craig Counsell (39)
Mark DeRosa (35) – Type B
Nick Green (31)
Jerry Hairston Jr. (34)
Orlando Hudson (32) – Type A
Adam Kennedy (34)
Felipe Lopez (30) – Type B
Mark Loretta (38)
Pablo Ozuna (35)
Placido Polanco (34) – Type A
Luis Rodriguez (30)
Juan Uribe (31)

Shortstops
Eric Bruntlett (32)
Orlando Cabrera (35) – Type A, can’t be offered arbitration
Juan Castro (38)
Alex Cora (34)
Craig Counsell (39)
Bobby Crosby (30)
Adam Everett (33)
Chris Gomez (39)
Alex Gonzalez (32)
Nick Green (31)
Khalil Greene (30)
Jerry Hairston Jr. (34)
John McDonald (35)
Luis Rodriguez (30)
Marco Scutaro (34) – Type A
Miguel Tejada (36) – Type A
Wilson Valdez (32)
Omar Vizquel (43)

Third basemen
Rich Aurilia (38)
Brian Barden (29)
Adrian Beltre (31) – Type B
Aaron Boone (37)
Craig Counsell (39)
Joe Crede (32)
Bobby Crosby (30)
Mark DeRosa (35) – Type B
Pedro Feliz (35)
Chone Figgins (32) – Type A
Nomar Garciaparra (36)
Troy Glaus (33) – Type B
Adam Kennedy (34)
Mike Lamb (34)
Mark Loretta (38)
Melvin Mora (38) – Type B
Pablo Ozuna (35)
Robb Quinlan (33)
Miguel Tejada (36) – Type A
Juan Uribe (31)

Left fielders
Garret Anderson (38) – Type B
Marlon Anderson (36)
Jason Bay (31) – Type A
Emil Brown (35)
Marlon Byrd (32) – Type B
Johnny Damon (36) – Type A
David Dellucci (36)
Cliff Floyd (37)
Joey Gathright (28)
Matt Holliday (30) – Type A
Reed Johnson (33)
Greg Norton (37)
Wily Mo Pena (28)
Dave Roberts (38)
Gary Sheffield (41)
Fernando Tatis (35) – Type B
Marcus Thames (33)
Randy Winn (36) – Type B

Center fielders
Rick Ankiel (30)
Rocco Baldelli (28)
Marlon Byrd (32) – Type B
Mike Cameron (37) – Type B
Endy Chavez (32)
Coco Crisp (30)
Darin Erstad (36)
Jeff Fiorentino (27)
Ryan Freel (34)
Joey Gathright (28)
Jerry Hairston Jr. (34)
Reed Johnson (33)
Andruw Jones (33)
Corey Patterson (30)
Scott Podsednik (34)
DeWayne Wise (32)

Right fielders
Jermaine Dye (36) – Type A
Brian Giles (39) – Type B
Vladimir Guerrero (35) – Type B
Joey Gathright (28)
Eric Hinske (32)
Geoff Jenkins (35)
Austin Kearns (30)
Jason Michaels (34)
Xavier Nady (31) – Type B
Randy Winn (36) – Type B

Starting pitchers
Brandon Backe (32)
Cha Seung Baek (30)
Miguel Batista (39)
Erik Bedard (31) – Type B
Kris Benson (34)
Paul Byrd (39)
Daniel Cabrera (29)
Chris Capuano (31)
Aroldis Chapman (22)
Bartolo Colon (37)
Jose Contreras (38)
Doug Davis (34) – Type B
Lenny DiNardo (30)
Justin Duchscherer (32) – Type B
Adam Eaton (32)
Shawn Estes (37)
Josh Fogg (33)
Jon Garland (30) – Type B
Tom Glavine (44)
Mike Hampton (37)
Rich Harden (28) – Type B
Mark Hendrickson (36)
Livan Hernandez (35)
Rich Hill (30)
Shawn Hill (29)
Jason Jennings (31)
Jason Johnson (36)
Randy Johnson (46) – Type B
John Lackey (31) – Type A
Braden Looper (35) – Type B
Rodrigo Lopez (34)
Noah Lowry (29)
Jason Marquis (31) – Type B
Pedro Martinez (38)
Eric Milton (34)
Brett Myers (29)
Vicente Padilla (32) – Type B
Carl Pavano (34) – Type B
Brad Penny (32)
Odalis Perez (33)
Andy Pettitte (38) – Type B
Joel Pineiro (31) – Type B
Sidney Ponson (33)
Mark Prior (28)
Horacio Ramirez (30)
Jason Schmidt (37)
Ben Sheets (31)
John Smoltz (43)
Brad Thompson (28)
Brett Tomko (37)
Jarrod Washburn (35)
Todd Wellemeyer (31)
Kip Wells (33)
Randy Wolf (33) – Type A

Closers
Mike Gonzalez (32) – Type A
Kevin Gregg (32) – Type A
Fernando Rodney (33) – Type B
Rafael Soriano (30) – Type A
Jose Valverde (32) – Type A
Billy Wagner (38) – Type A

Right-handed relievers
Luis Ayala (32)
Danys Baez (32)
Joaquin Benoit (32)
Rafael Betancourt (35) – Type A
Chad Bradford (35)
Doug Brocail (43) – Type B
Kiko Calero (35) – Type B
Buddy Carlyle (32)
Chad Cordero (28)
Elmer Dessens (38)
R.A. Dickey (35)
Brendan Donnelly (38)
Octavio Dotel (36) – Type A
Kelvim Escobar (33)
Eric Gagne (34)
Geoff Geary (33)
Dan Giese (33)
Edgar Gonzalez (27)
Tom Gordon (42)
Jason Grilli (33)
LaTroy Hawkins (37) – Type A
Matt Herges (40)
Bob Howry (36) – Type B
Jason Isringhausen (37)
Jorge Julio (31)
Masahide Kobayashi (36)
Shane Loux (30)
Brandon Lyon (30) – Type B
Gary Majewski (30)
Guillermo Mota (36) – Type B
Joe Nelson (35)
Chan Ho Park (37) – Type B
Tomo Ohka (34)
Tony Pena Jr. (29)
Joel Peralta (34)
Troy Percival (40)
J.J. Putz (33)
Juan Rincon (31)
Takashi Saito (40)
Duaner Sanchez (30)
Rudy Seanez (41)
Justin Speier (36)
Russ Springer (41) – Type B
Julian Tavarez (37)
Brad Thompson (28)
Luis Vizcaino (35)
Tyler Walker (34)
David Weathers (40) – Type B
Jeff Weaver (33)
Jamey Wright (35)
Yasuhiko Yabuta (37)
Tyler Yates (32)

Left-handed relievers
Joe Beimel (32) – Type B
Bruce Chen (33)
Alan Embree (40)
Scott Eyre (38) – Type B
Casey Fossum (32)
Mike Gosling (29)
John Grabow (31) – Type A
Eddie Guardado (39)
Mark Hendrickson (36)
Ron Mahay (39)
Will Ohman (31) – Type B
Darren Oliver (39) – Type A
Horacio Ramirez (30)
Glendon Rusch (35)
Scott Schoeneweis (36)
Brian Shouse (41) – Type B
Ken Takahashi (41)
Jack Taschner (32)
Ron Villone (40)
Jamie Walker (38)

 

 

Dissecting the Astros and arbitration/free agency

The free agent filing period began Thursday, with outfielder/infielder Darin Erstad, outfielder Jason Michaels and pitcher Mike Hampton filing for free agency. Shortstop Miguel Tejada, closer Jose Valverde and reliever LaTroy Hawkins are expected to file in the coming days.

The Astros have a 15-day exclusive negotiating window with their own free agents and are hoping to get something done soon with Hawkins. Tejada and Valverde will certainly test the free agency waters.

Tejada, Valverde and Hawkins have been classified by the Elias Sports Bureau as Type A free agents, which means simply they are among the best in baseball at their positions. It also means the Astros could receive an additional first-round draft pick next year if they offer them arbitration and they wind up signing with another team.

Of course, offering arbitration is tricky. Tejada made roughly $15 million last season, so if they offer him arbitration and he accepts, he could wind up making a ton of money after leading the team in hits and driving in 86 runs. But if they don’t offer Tejada arbitration and he signs elsewhere, they get nothing.

The same is true with Valverde, who made $8 million last year and is likely headed for a raise. If the Astros offered arbitration to both Valverde and Tejada and they both accept, they could make a combined $25 million next year. That would put a choke hold on the payroll. Houston already owes Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Carlos Lee and Kaz Matsui a combined $54.5 million next year, and several players are due for large raises in arbitration.

“We have to keep our eye on both balls,” Astros general manager Ed Wade said. “We have to pay attention to the short term, and if there’s a free agent out there we feel we can’t walk past and is costs us a draft pick then we have to deal with that. At the same time, there’s nothing more valuable to the overall long-term picture than draft picks.

“Whether it’s sacrificing draft picks or picking up additional draft picks by offering salary arbitration and run the risk of having the player accept, we have to evaluate the different variables involved. When it comes down to it, if there’s a Major League free agent we think we can’t live without and we have a chance to sign them and them are faced with losing a second-round pick in the process.”

Elias ranks all Major League players numerically based on their stats from the last two years. The players are grouped by five positions by league – first base/outfield, catcher, second base-shortstop-third base, starting pitching and relief pitching. The top 20 percent at each position are considered Type A free agents, and the next 20 percent are Type B.

Teams that lose a Type A free agent receive the first-round draft pick from next year’s First-Year Player Draft from the signing team (provided it’s not in the Top 15) in addition to a supplemental pick between the first and second round. Teams losing a Type B free agent receive a supplemental pick, with the signing team keeping its draft choice.

The good news for the Astros is their pick in next June’s First-Player Draft is in the first half of first round (No. 8), so they will keep their first-round pick even if they sign a Type A free agent. They would give up their second-round pick instead of their first-round pick in that case.

Teams have until Dec. 1 to offer salary arbitration to their own free agents, and the players have until Dec. 7 to decide if they’re going to accept.

In case you’re wondering, Randy Wolf is a Type A free agent.

Players can file for free agency today

Beginning today, players eligible for free agency can start filing. For the Astros, that list includes Darin Erstad, LaTroy Hawkins, Jason Michaels, Miguel Tejada and Jose Valverde, who has already said he’s going to test the free-agent waters. Aaron Boone and Mike Hampton are also eligible, but Boone could retire and Hampton’s career appears to be done.

Those eligible for free agency have 15 days to file and their former team has exclusive negotiating rights for that period. Players are free to talk to other teams, but they can’t talk about contract offers in terms of dollars without risking tampering.

The Astros could sign either of their own free agents, just as they did last week with Geoff Blum. They’re in talks with Hawkins and hope to re-sign him. Michaels could also return, but the big names are Tejada and Valverde. I see Valverde’s price being too high for the Astros, and I don’t envision Tejada returning. It all depends on what kind of market there is for Tejada and whether he wants to take a large pay cut and play third base.

Those looking at possible free agents for the Astros down the road? The Dodgers have declined the option of Jon Garland, who went a combined 11-13 with a 4.01 ERA between Arizona and the L.A. Dodgers. The Astros made a run at him a couple of years ago and could do so again.

 

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