With Jose Valverde's decision to decline arbitration with the Astros, that leaves them with an upper limit of 15 million to spend this offseason. Of course these comments related to Jose de Jesus Ortiz for the Houston Chronicle make it seem like accepting arbitration was never an option:
"Houston had a chance," [Valverde] said. "Another arbitration wasn't for me. If they want to win with young players, that's good. But a team like that has to invest to win. The GM said he wanted me, but if he really wanted me, he would have offered something. He never offered me any type of offer or anything. They had a chance to make an offer, and they never made it. It was always, ‘Well talk tomorrow.' Then when the time ended for the first offer, they said we'd talk later. They never, never made me an offer."
So let me get this straight, the Astros had no intentions of of re-signing Valverde and they offered him arbitration. They wanted Hawkins back, so they didn't offer him arbitration. At what point did arbitration become such a sign of bad faith in negotiations. I thought it was about getting compensation for losing free agents. Silly me.
At any rate, with that 15 million, Houston GM Ed Wade will set out to fill these main positions of need: closer, offense, eighth inning reliever, bench.
What's that mean for the rest of the winter? Look for the Astros to check in on these kinds of players:
LaTroy Hawkins will be re-signed, maybe as early as today, for about 5 million. I'd like it to be a one-year deal, but wouldn't rule out his agent pushing for an additional year. 2009 Cost: 5 million
- The Astros will also make a push to bring back Miguel Tejada now. He will provide both offense and another option at third base for new manager Brad Mills. This probably won't happen until January, since Tejada wants a long-term deal. 2009 Cost: 4 million
- Look for them to also pursue a guy like JJ Putz or newly-released Boof Bonser as a possible late inning setup man. Putz could come on a relatively cheap, one year deal while Bonser may get signed for less than a million guaranteed with incentive escalators. Bonser missed the 2009 season after tearing his rotator cuff and labrum. Cost: 3 million
- That leaves a couple of million to spend on one or two bench guys. One of those will definitely be an infielder that can play multiple positions, but mainly will back up Manzella. They'll probably add another outfielder too. Maybe Ryan Church? Cost: 2 million
We just spent 14 of that 15 million, with some change to spare. A roster with that bullpen, Tejada at third and Church spelling guys like Pence and Lee isn't bad at all, but still won't be a winner. The only way that happens is if the Astros add two starters and that's just no in the cards.