The Astros and Arbitration: The annual non-sensical decision

I don't want to come off as too persnickety, I know that Ed Wade took a bold step forward this afternoon when he sent Jose Valverde an arbitration offer.  Great, grand, wonderful.  But here's the thing, Valverde's not going to accept that offer.  I think that's been a foregone conclusion for just about every observer of Valverde's free agency.  So yes, I'm happy we'll be netting some kind of first round compensation pick, but I'm not happy that we'll now be forced to either overpay or lose out on LaTroy Hawkins.

Why will we have to do this? Because this is a team without a closer and a GM who loves relief pitching.  So either Ed Wade accepts his fate and rolls the dice on in house options.  I don't know which it'll be, but I'm not pleased with either end result (unless one of our in house options set's the NL on fire in 2010).

This will be the decision of this year's free agent crop I will not understand.  LaTroy Hawkins is a good—not great—late inning relief pitcher who could easily slot into a closer-eque position for this team and provide serviceable work on our mediocre-to-below-mediocre team at a relatively reasonable cost.  That is, if other teams don't try and overpay him for the same role or even just as their eighth-inning guy.  

Prior to a few hours ago, Hawkins was a questionable free-agent to invest in because of the detrimental Type-A tag hanging off his right arm.  All Ed Wade had to do was explain to Drayton McLane is that by not offering Hawkins arbitration, he'd start hearing sizable offers that the Astros, or really any rational actor, likely cannot prudently match. Or that with an arbitration offer the Astros would get one of two results: teams become gun-shy due to the draft picks if Hawkins declines it, or the Astros get Hawkins back for probably no more than $4 million for one year if they go to arbitration.

Who, upon seeing that logic, says no to that?

So either Drayton McLane is wholly illogical, or Ed Wade did not frame this decision very well to his boss.  One of the two.  But now there's no going back on this one and I think we'll see an interesting race to overpay for guys on the fringe of closer (like Hawkins, Gregg, and Sherril) as the hot stove heats up.

People on the short list of being happy with this news are:

  1. LaTroy Hawkins' agent (bigger cut)
  2. The Boston Red Sox (my pick for who signs Hawkins)
  3. Jeff Fulchino, Chris Sampson, Alberto Arias (all possible closers in waiting)
That's it, no one else makes out well in this transaction (that I can think of in the heat of the moment).

To sum: it's good that we'll get one compensation pick—and that the news wasn't entirely bad because it didn't cause me to throw my laptop at the wall in frustration—but the Astros managed to still botch this royally.

**UPDATE** As I watch the reports roll in and see that pretty much no one is offering arbitration, I feel better—slightly. Then I read Dave Cameron's breakdown of arbitration risk-accessment and I went back to being angry:


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