The Arizona Diamondbacks traded Jose Valverde to the Houston Astros for a hair below his trade value because the Diamondbacks feared the kind of money that the 2007 major league saves leader might make in arbitration. In reality, Valverde will only make $2.7 million more than he did in his standout 2007 season.
Coincidentally, that $2.7 million raise almost precisely matches the combined 2008 salaries of Chad Qualls, Chris Burke, and Juan Gutierrez - the three players Arizona received in return for Valverde. While the Diamondbacks did save $2 million via the trade, it's difficult to balance that against the loss of talent, at least for this upcoming season.
Although Qualls is consistently solid out of the bullpen, he lacks Valverde's ability to dominate for a stretch, as he has never posted an ERA below 3.00. This move also leaves the Diamondbacks absent a pitcher with more than two months of closing experience. Burke gives the club defensive versatility, but his offensive contributions will almost certainly amount to less than what several Diamondbacks who will open the season at Triple-A might contribute, if his career .696 OPS is any indication. There is a good chance that Gutierrez will not pitch at all for the big league club in 2008.
Valverde will once again be eligible for arbitration in 2009 before potentially testing free agent waters in 2010. The Diamondbacks can control Qualls, Burke, and Gutierrez for substantially longer. Time will determine whether that will outweigh two more years of Jose Valverde for around $10 million.
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