It's looking like the first part of my theory on the Astros bullpen plans are coming to fruition. Jose Valverde can't find a deal, so his best option is accepting arbitration with the Astros. That probably means his salary will fall somewhere around 9 million. Ken Rosenthal is reporting the possible salary number at 10 million, but from looking at the market, that seems high to me. At the same time, Valverde's salary was 8 million last season, so you can guess where it will end up through this negotiation.
Two points to remember: First, Valverde has until midnight Monday to decide whether to accept arbitration. Certainly, his agent has an idea how the market will shape up to this point. The fact that both Billy Wagner AND Takashi Saito both signed before rumors of Valverde have hit the market. Second, even if Valverde accepts arbitration, it doesn't mean he's locked into an arbiter deciding his 2010 salary. Check out AstroAndy's excellent rundown of the process for a refresher.
I say the first part of my theory looks sound but the second part, bringing Hawkins back, looks less likely. Maybe the Astros could have struck quickly and signed Hawkins to a modest deal a couple of weeks ago. Now, the market seems to be heating up for the soon-to-be 37-year old with the Rockies being the latest team to express interest.
Honestly, I'm less afraid of Valverde returning on a one-year deal than of the Astros working out a multi-year deal for him. Sure, it's probably not the best use of resources to lock up a closer for big money with a limited budget. But, what else were they going to spend money on? Ed Wade has made it clear he's not spending on a starter, that third base is pretty set and that he's happy entering the season with Towles, Q and possibly Castro in the catching mix. Bringing back Valverde will not only give the Astros a more solid bullpen, they won't be able to get a player of his talent on a contract that short. This is better news than it seems.
On to more of the weekend's best links:
- This news is either depressing or somewhat hopeful, depending on how you look at it. Mier appears to be one of the steals of the 2009 draft. Lyles and Castro are both ahead of schedule. No winning records since 2007, though? Is it really important for minor league affiliates to win games? If the system can churn out one to two prospects a season, isn't that what matters most?
- My analytical toolbox has been duly updated. Thanks, Dave Cameron.
- Recent injuries have sidelined both Wesley Wright and Brian Bogusevic. Both might have an impact on the 25-man roster next season, so maybe it's time to shut them down until February.
- Here's Brian McTaggart's take on the Winter Meetings. Not surprising that the Astros won't be movers and shakers. Richard Justice thinks the Astros woes lately are all because of Baylor. Personally, I'd blame that replay official up in Dallas. That game was clearly over. He owes us a TCU-Alabama national championship.
- Worried about Roy Oswalt? Apparently, we shouldn't be. His best buddy, JJO, says he's rested and ready to go. He also is happy with his new pitching coach.
- It's a bit of a stretch to think Bryce Harper may fall to No. 8, but man, can this kid play? This is one of the coolest videos I've seen in a while. As athletic as he sounds, maybe he switches to third base? A man can dream, can't he?
More distressing news from the NCAA about the draft process. I know there are some who would like to see an international draft, but honestly, do we need to give more power to organizations like this? After the NCAA settled with Andy Oliver, it seemed clear its intent was to move back to the status quo and that's exactly what they are doing.
A very illuminating profile on Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman. All those GMs saying he's the third- or fourth-best pitcher on the free agent market? They probably thought Kyle Farnsworth was also one of the best. I don't know what it is about a lefty with a fastball that makes scouts lose their minds. Doesn't his utter lack of control worry them just as much?
- Boy, this Rangers sale is going to be fun to watch. Plus, there is the added intrigue on whether Nolan is sticking around with the team. Obviously, this worries me more than anything else about that debacle, since I like the idea of Round Rock being the Triple-A affiliate. If they leave, would the Astros bring back the Beaumont Golden Gators?