Regular MLBTR readers know I have mostly been a harsh critic of Ed Wade’s short tenure as the Astros’ GM. Well, not this time. He made an excellent deal in acquiring Jose Valverde for Chris Burke, Chad Qualls, and Juan Gutierrez.
Valverde, 27, is a nasty shut-down closer with two seasons before free agency. He gets strikeouts by the bushel and can handle the ninth in a tough hitter’s ballpark.
Burke was once the 10th overall pick in the 2001 draft, but he turns 27 in March. His best year was a .765 OPS in 2006. The D’Backs hope he can match that and take over for Orlando Hudson after the 2007 season. I have to think his trade value was minimal.
Qualls, 29, has three seasons before free agency. He’s quietly compiled a 3.39 ERA in 284 career innings. He had a solid strikeout rate last year and also posted a strong groundball rate near 60%. Josh Byrnes is gambling that Qualls is nearly Valverde’s equal, just without the fancy 40-save season.
Gutierrez, 24, didn’t impress as a starter in Triple A or the bigs this year. Baseball America recently ranked him as the Astros’ fourth best prospect, with an excellent heater and sometimes plus changeup. He may end up in relief, but is an intriguing arm.
This trade could definitely work out for Byrnes and Co. – they gave up two years of Valverde for 12 years of Burke, Qualls, and Gutierrez. If Qualls can be 80% as good as Valverde, the D’Backs win the deal on service time alone.
I just question whether Byrnes got the best possible package for Valverde. The Astros, meanwhile, did a nice job getting a possibly elite closer for a reasonable package.