Jose Valverde notched 47 saves last season, which was enough for both the major league lead and a franchise record. Those 47 saves also allowed Valverde to capture the NL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award, in which all relievers are given a score based upon their wins, losses, saves, blown saves, and "tough saves," in which the reliever enters the game with a tying run already on base.
No one denies that Valverde had a fine year, but some of his statistics may be misleading. He led the majors in saves, but also in opportunities, as the Arizona Diamondbacks enjoyed many a close contest in 2007. His seven blown saves are a cause for some concern, and his 3:1 K/BB ratio last year isn't anything special for a closer.
Moreover, Valverde has struggled in even years for whatever reason. His 2004 and 2006 seasons were sub-par at best. In many ways, it would be better for the Diamondbacks to sell Valverde while his value is high, particularly with a strong all-around bullpen that should be able to absorb his loss internally.
There had been reports that Valverde was seeking a four-year contract extension worth between $50-$60 million, but his agent recently denied those reports. The flamboyant reliever is eligible for arbitration with the Diamondbacks for the next two seasons, and figures to make $5-$6 million in 2008.
It would make more sense then for the Diamondbacks to wait until next offseason to deal Valverde, especially with top closer prospects Reid Mahon, Matt Elliott, and Kyler Newby all at least a year away from the majors. On the other hand, there are several teams in dire need of an established closer, including the Milwaukee Brewers, a ballclub that boasts extra starters they could part with. Milwaukee's bullpen is in shambles after Francisco Cordero and Scott Linebrink signed with the Reds and White Sox. They are currently pursuing free agent David Riske, but may not want to rely on him in their closer's role.
General manager Josh Byrnes would also have to think of fan reaction to a trade of the homegrown Valverde, a fan favorite in Arizona. The franchise leader in career saves with 98, Valverde dominated Cubs hitters in all three games of the NLDS before taking the loss in Game Two of the NLCS versus the Rockies.
Byrnes has shown that he is not afraid to make moves that are unpopular with fans if they are in the best interests of his team. It would likely take someone of Yovani Gallardo's caliber to make that the case in a trade of Jose Valverde, however.
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