No matter where Valverde winds up this offseason, this 9th inning intro needs to live on. Classic, classic stuff:
So how about Jose Valverde, the free agent? Let's take a look:
The Case for Valverde
Aside from a rough April (5.63 ERA), Valverde has been lights out this season for the Astros. From May through September, Valverde's ERA never exceeded 2.16. In addition, batters only hit .207 against Valverde this season, which is right in line with his career .208 BAA. Those are some pretty impressive stats, right there.
Since Valverde entered the majors in 2003, he has averaged at least one strikeout/IP in every season. This season, Valverde's K/9 rate was the lowest of his career at a very impressive 9.3. These stats show that when he's on, Valverde has the potential to dominate (and average a 95+ MPH fastball), which is exactly what you want in a closer.
The Case against Valverde
-Is he worth it?
In this economy given the vast amount of closers who can be had on the free agent market, is there a team out there that'd be willing to pay Valverde more than $10 million per year?
-The good: Valverde is seen as the top closer on the free agent market. The bad: the free agent market is littered with quality relief pitchers with closing experience that could represent a cheaper option than Valverde (Soriano, Gonzalez, Gregg, Wagner, etc.)
Elias Ranking: Type A
-In my opinion, the odds are very slim that the Astros will offer Valverde arbitration. Even though his performance this season has been stellar, I doubt the Astros are willing to risk paying Valverde $10+ million in 2010, which would make him one of the highest paid closers in baseball. Then again, the Astros' farm system is so bad that I'm sure GM Ed Wade would love to collect those two draft picks.
(3 years/$27 million)
Here are some comparable contracts:
-Francisco Rodriguez (3 years/$37 million)
-Francisco Cordero (4 years/$46 million)
-Brian Fuentes (2 years/$17.5 million)
According to fangraphs, Valverde was worth just $3.1 million dollars this season. However, because of his potentially dominant stuff and the ridiculous amount of saves he racked up in 2007 and 2008 (91 total), I have a tough time believing that the market for Valverde will bottom out that much. When you take into account that Valverde is only 30 years old, $9 million a season seems very reasonable. But with that in mind, it would not surprise me to see Valverde's price tag plummet if teams choose to go the cheap route.
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