Monday, December 21, 2009

Jose Valverde: This Winter's Orlando Hudson?

Am I alone in thinking that Jose Valverde, considered to be one of the best closers on the open market, might wind up signing a contract for less than what Brandon Lyon recieved? We'll see. But for now, Ken Rosenthal outlines the problems facing Valverde's free agency:

No, Valverde’s problem is that he is a Type A free agent who rejected his team’s offer of salary arbitration. His decision, in part, was fueled by emotion; Valverde, one friend said, was upset with the Astros for declining to sign him long-term.

Thus, he made a personal decision, if not -- perhaps -- the best business move.

Valverde, a right-hander coming off an $8 million salary, would have shot past $10 million in arbitration, though on a non-guaranteed, one-year deal. Now, any team that signs him faces an additional cost -- the loss of a high draft pick to the Astros.

Teams are interested. They have to be interested. The question is at what price.
The non-existent market for Jose Valverde is the under reported story of the offseason. Here's a guy, who came into the winter with sky high expectations after a great 2009 season, but so far in free agency, the interest in Valverde has been reduced to crickets and tumbleweeds.

And I can't say that I blame teams for this. As Rosenthal noted, Valverde made a terrible decision to reject the Astros' arbitration offer and there are simply no teams on the market this winter that are prepared to give Valverde the contract with both the dollars and years he's looking for.

It will be fascinating to see what happens with Valverde in the coming weeks. I'm sure his price tag is set to drop well into bargain basement territory, but Valverde will be further hindered by baseball's version of the scarlet letter: type A status. The limited number of teams interested in closers combined with the overall reluctance to part with draft picks makes Valverde's situation a nightmare.

The most logical scenario for Valverde would have been for a team with a pick in the top 16 of the MLB draft to sign him because their first round pick is protected. Any team inside the top 16 would only have to surrender their second round pick to the Astros. However, it's doubtful that any of the teams inside the top 16 have the cash or the desire to sign Valverde. The Nationals and Pirates need closers, but does anyone honestly think either of those two teams will spend on a top flight closer? Neither did I.

So it's pretty obvious to me that Valverde will wind up with a team in the bottom half of the draft, which means they will have to surrender a first round pick. This situation is similar to what Orlando Hudson went through last year with the Dodgers, when Hudson settled on a one year deal with a low base ($4 mil) and plenty of incentives because so many teams shied away from his type A status. Sure the Dodgers had to surrender their first round pick, but in return, they got Hudson at a very cheap price and minimal commitment.

And unfortunately for Valverde, that's exactly the kind of deal I can see him taking. A team like the Phillies or Angels would be perfect for Valverde because they could offer the chance to close if need be and Valverde would be put in a winning situation that could give him plenty of exposure and attention. It remains to be seen if either of those two teams has the money to spend on Valverde, but given their playoff expectations this season, it might make sense to add another experienced closer to the mix at a low cost.

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