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Jose Valverde: Mariano Rivera's Setup Man for the Yankees?

Doug Rush@Doug_RushSenior Analyst IJanuary 13, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 16:  Pitcher Jose Valverde #47 of the Houston Astros picked up his ninth save against the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 16, 2009 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

It's been relatively quiet as of late with the Yankees in the winter.

After they brought in Curtis Granderson, Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson, the Yankees have taken a step back in free agency.

They still have a hole in left field, and many people aren't sure whether Johnny Damon will come back or if they'll go with someone else.

There are still a couple of holes that have gone unnoticed and may still need to be addressed: the bullpen.

Many feel that whoever loses out between Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes goes back to the bullpen. The Yankees are also looking to trade either Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre, so there's a chance one of them, or both, might not be in the majors.

Phil Coke was also traded in the Granderson deal, so his vacancy leaves an opening.

The Yankees bullpen in the playoffs was a little erratic at times. Chamberlain and Hughes struggled at times, as did Alfredo Aceves. David Robertson and Damaso Marte stepped up in front of Mariano Rivera.

But if the Yankees want to repeat as champions, they need to solidify their bullpen.

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Now, I'm going to throw out a crazy suggestion, but it's a suggestion anyway.

What about bringing in Jose Valverde to the Yankees bullpen and make him the setup man for Rivera?

Now, right off, I know he's looking to be a closer. But here's the thing. NOBODY is making Valverde an offer.

There have been quiet talks of the A's being interested, but they have Andrew Bailey as their new closer.

There also has been talk of the Tigers, who just lost Fernando Rodney to the Angels, but they are considering making Joel Zumaya their new closer, if he can stay healthy.

Houston hasn't been very vocal on bringing Valverde back, and really, Houston has been a very bad and poorly run organization since making the World Series in 2005.

Valverde earned around $8 million with the Astros in 2009, which is definitely not what the Yankees would want to spend on a reliever. But by now, Valverde's asking price could eventually come down if he doesn't get the $8 million per season he is looking for.

Truthfully, it is very surprising to still see Valverde's name on the free agent list considering how good of a closer he's been.

In 2009, Valverde saved 25 games with a 2.33 ERA and a 4-2 record in 54 innings.

In 2008, Valverde saved 44 games with a 3.38 ERA and a 6-2 record in 72 innings.

Those numbers were all with a really lousy Astros team. Imagine putting Valverde's power arm in front of Rivera, plus having Hughes or Chamberlain in the seventh inning role.

That could potentially have the ability to make the games a six-inning game if Chamberlain pitches back to his powerful abilities to go along with Rivera and Valverde.

But of course, the price is high right now at $8 million. Also, it's not definite that Valverde would accept a setup role, or if the Yankees would even be interested.

But if the Yankees do decide to add to their bullpen by exploring the market, Valverde is still one of the best arms available.

It's a long shot, and for all we know, the Yankees may not even look on the market for relief help.

But if somehow Brian Cashman does, Valverde's at least worth exploring.

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