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Is Ed Wade Crazy Like A Fox?

I've been considering this more and more as all the arbitration talk rolled by on Tuesday. What if there's a direction we're not seeing with the Astros? What if Ed Wade is playing the market with the best of them?

Let's look at the facts: Jose Valverde is getting no interest whatsoever in the hot stove. Granted, a guy like Jason Bay also isn't getting talked about much. The thing that has me thinking the silence on Valverde isn't just his agent's lack of media sources is that the market for pitchers may be depressed this winter.

Take a guy like Joel Piniero. Obviously, he's not CC Sabathia, but he is one of the top pitchers on the market. Jon Heyman said on MLB Network last night that Pineiro would ask for 30 million over 3 years and wouldn't come close to that. If Piniero, a starting pitcher, couldn't get 10 per, how is Valverde, an easier-to-replace closer, going to get 8 or 9 million?

What I can see happening is Valverde figuring out his market potential isn't great this season and signing with the Astros for 6-7 million. At the same time, Wade is negotiating for a Houston-friendly 5 million over 2 year deal with Hawkins, giving him back the back-end of his rotation for just under 10 million. That would leave him around 5 million to work with to fill out the roster. Sure, maybe Tejada doesn't re-sign, but I already see that possibility as remote.

See, his comments to McTaggart on twitter last night only underscore my point. Wade pulled the greatest manipulation move every by offering Valverde and not Hawkins. With Valverde, he can say that the Astros want him back badly, that's why they offered him. With Hawkins, he can say that as a sign of good faith in negotiations, they declined to offer him. Thus, he's created favorable negotiating positions with both players.

I know, I know, this seems too far-fetched to be true. After all, the Astros should have better ways to spend the 15 million in the budget, right? Hmmm...

Ed. note: This is what happens when you think too much about the offseason. You start seeing competence on the part of the Astros front office. I'm going to lie down now...