Astros re-tool 'pen, fill void at third
Valverde's exit opens door to add Lindstrom, Feliz, Lyon
INDIANAPOLIS -- Astros general manager Ed Wade came to the Winter Meetings knowing the makeup of his bullpen could change dramatically by the time he and his staff left the Hoosier State.
After closer Jose Valverde declined arbitration because he was seeking a two-year deal the Astros weren't willing to offer, Wade suddenly had some payroll flexibility to address the bullpen and upgrade the offense by adding a third baseman.
Houston was close to re-signing reliever LaTroy Hawkins to a one-year guaranteed deal before the Milwaukee Brewers swooped in and gave him two years guaranteed Wednesday, and things began to move quickly. Within hours, Wade had traded for Florida reliever Matt Lindstrom and had reached a three-year, $15 million contract agreement with reliever Brandon Lyon.
The Lyon deal hasn't been confirmed by the organization because it's waiting on him to pass a physical, but an announcement could be made Friday.
Wade was then able to cross another item off his to-do list just before he left town when he signed free-agent third baseman Pedro Feliz, formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies, to a one-year contract worth $4.5 million.
Lindstrom, 29, cost the Astros three marginal prospects, but he's a hard thrower who had experience closing with the Marlins. Lyon went 6-5 with three saves in 65 games for Detroit last season, and he saved 26 games and had a 4.70 ERA in 2008 with Arizona.
"We had to address some things on the back end of the bullpen, and I think we made progress there," Wade said. "It's disappointing not to have either Valverde or Hawkins back, or both guys back, but I think we'll resolve the back end, and we laid some groundwork to do some other things, so I think it's been a productive couple of days for us.
"It's still relatively early in the offseason when you start to think about the number of players who are still in the free-agent market. I think there are other opportunities to do some things, and we have to take advantage of what other opportunities exist to try to get better."
Valverde's decision to reject arbitration was huge for the Astros. He's a Type A free agent, so they will receive two compensatory Draft picks when he signs with another team. Plus, they were able to get Lindstrom and Lyon for probably less than Valverde would have commanded and still had money to land Feliz.
The addition of Lindstrom and Lyon also helps the Astros get younger. Last year, they had the oldest roster on Opening Day and had Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz in the starting rotation. Houston is committed to rookie Tommy Manzella at shortstop and could have a rookie in Jason Castro start behind the plate.
"The starting rotation has a chance to be appreciably younger if both [Bud] Norris and either [Yorman] Bazardo or [Felipe] Paulino step up," Wade said.
Wade still needs to address bench depth, which would be limited to the outfield at this point. Unless Jeff Keppinger is non-tendered, he and Blum will be the backup infielders. There's still a chance free-agent outfielder Jason Michaels could return for 2010.
Also, several other players will hit the market Saturday when they're non-tendered by clubs. Outfielders Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn and pitcher Wandy Rodriguez are key pieces and will get raises in arbitration, and most of the other arbitration-eligible players come at a relatively low cost and will likely be tendered.
"I think, with the numbers of players still on the market right now and with the non-tenders adding more talent to the mix, having some dollars to spend at different points during the winter would be advantageous," Wade said.
Deals done: The Astros pulled off a trade with the Florida Marlins to acquire Lindstrom, sending prospects Roberto Bono, Luis Bryan and Jorge Jimenez to the Marlins. They further added depth to their bullpen by reaching a three-year, $15 million contract agreement with Lyon, pending a physical. Wade capped the Winter Meetings by announcing the signing of Feliz to a one-year, $4.5 million deal.
Rule 5 activity: Nothing was gained in the Rule 5 Draft. Houston selected Jimenez from Boston and sent him to Florida as the player to be named in the Florida trade. The Astros lost Double-A Corpus Christi outfielder Nick Moresi and right-hander Jose Duran in the Minor League phase.
Goals accomplished: After losing Valverde and Hawkins, the Astros wasted little time addressing the bullpen situation by acquiring Lindstrom and Lyon. Wade also wanted to acquire a third baseman and wound up with Feliz.
Unfinished business: Unless the Astros add another piece to the bullpen, it appears bench depth is the next item to be addressed. But they will be in no rush to do that.
GM's bottom line: "We knew Valverde not accepting arbitration would set off a chain reaction, and it did, because by not being able to retain him it created more payroll flexibility to address things in a different fashion. So, I had a pretty good sense or feel we were going to be busy, and we were." -- Wade
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.