Ed Wade says he’s going to take his time considering arbitration for the various Astros who are eligible for it. One decision that they can reach fairly easily is the one about Jose Valverde.
There’s no way this team should offer him arbitration, unless they’re certain another team is going to sign him and give the Astros some draft choices. Good teams might consider a high-priced closer, but poor teams that are trying to cut payroll should just go find some hard thrower and hand him the job. Valverde made $8 million for a team that won 74 games last year. It’s a silly expense.
The other big names on the arbitration list are Miguel Tejada and LaTroy Hawkins. I can’t see risking arbitration with Tejada, who might work out as a third baseman but whose age is working against him now. The Astros were lucky that he played well through the end of the contract, but Tejada’s not going to be a big part of a division winner in Houston.
Hawkins? I don’t know. I think there’s plenty of relief pitching to be had out there and there’s not much point in spending big money on it.
So defensively the lineup looks like this: Berkman 1b, Matsui 2b, a whole lot of possibilities at 3b, Tommy Manzella at ss, with an outfield of Lee, Bourn and Pence.
I read that the team would like to get rid of Matsui, but the guy just played the most games of his career last year and stayed healthy the entire second half. His offense and defense were both mediocre, but the Astros don’t have anyone better. Just stick him in the 9 hole and at second base and worry about other problems.
Of which the Astros have several. I hope Tommy Manzella is Adam Everett in the field, because it looks like he’ll be Adam Everett with the bat. Chris Johnson has not shown major-league hitting ability, which is why the Astros aren’t eager to put him at third base. Tejada or Geoff Blum or Jeff Keppinger or some combination might work. Either way, that’s three positions of struggling offense, plus catcher.
I keep expecting Carlos Lee to falter, but he just keeps doing what he does: some doubles, some homers, some RBI, and some weak defense. But he’s got three years left on his contract, so there’s not much you can do there. The two big bright spots are Bourn and Hunter Pence, and Berkman should still have a few solid years left.
And we haven’t even talked about the starting pitchers yet.