Houston Astros Losing Valverde and Hawkins, So Who's Next?

Richard ZowieCorrespondent IDecember 9, 2009

CHICAGO - MAY 16: LaTroy Hawkins #22 of the Houston Astros throws the ball against the Chicago Cubs on May 16, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Astros 5-4. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I think I'd have a much easier time trying to correctly interpret David Lynch's film Eraserhead than I would trying to understand what the Houston Astros front office is up to these days.

For those not up on cinematic issues, Lynch has never publicly commented on the interpretation of his 1977 horror/fantasy/sci-fi/drama, only to say that of all the guesses fans have made, nobody's ever come close to its true meaning.

I was under the strong impression that when the Jose Valverde rejected the Astros' offer of salary arbitration, the team would focus its energy on re-signing LaTroy Hawkins. The pitcher was coming off a 1-4 season where he had a 2.13 ERA and 11 saves in 65 appearances with the 'Stros.

In the end, the 36-year-old Hawkins apparently didn't like Houston's offer of only a one-year contract and chose instead to sign with National League Central Division rival Milwaukee Brewers for two years and $7.5 million.

So, Houston's almost certainly going to be without its closer and is now without a quality middle reliever.

While Houston will receive compensatory picks for Valverde, should he choose to bolt to another team, they won't with Hawkins since they never offered him arbitration.

Don't hold your breath about Houston signing lefty Randy Wolf: It looks like the Brewers have signed him also.

It worries me that other teams seem to be aggressive about signing quality pitchers while Houston continues to let one good hurler after another land elsewhere.

Perhaps Houston wanted to offer only a one-year deal because of Hawkins' age. If that was such a liability, why were other teams interested in him?

This reminds me far too much of Drayton McLane's reluctance to offer Andy Pettitte anything past two years for a contract a few years ago. Pettitte returned to the Yankees and has again re-signed with New York after having decent seasons.

You can hardly blame Hawkins and Valverde for bolting: They have to be businessmen and go where their services are the most sought after.

Yes, I know, McLane perhaps wants to sit me down and explain that the world is far more complicated than I can possibly imagine , like what Ned Beatty's character did with Peter Finch's Howard Beale character in the 1976 film Network . That's assuming McLane would deign to read this blog posting.

Maybe McLane knows far more than I realize, or maybe he's just extremely lousy at assessing talent and even worse when it comes to being flexible about the length of contracts.

I find myself concerned Houston will let all the quality players go and will think they've gotten a bargain by signing glorified Triple-A bench warmers. And then wonder why these pitchers get shelled this next season and wonder why giving away more and more tickets is the only way to get Minute Maid Park half filled.

Richard Zowie, a Bleacher Report blogger and pessimistic Astros fan, can be reached at richardzowie@gmail.com .