Valverde to Astros; Qualls Joins D-Backs Bullpen

by Michael Egnak on December 14, 2007 @ 06:13:18 PDT


Steve Gilbert, of, reports the Arizona Diamondbacks have traded closer Jose Valverde to the Houston Astros in exchange for relief pitcher Chad Qualls, pitcher Juan Gutierrez, and infielder Chris Burke.

Valverde will likely be the team's closer for the 2008 season. Valverde was one of the most dependable fantasy closers last year, posting a 2.66 ERA while successfully saving 47 games. He also struck out 78 batters through 64 1/3 innings pitched, but he walked 26 batters and blew seven save opportunities. However, he posted a 1.12 WHIP and a .196 batting average against. The 28-year-old also finished with a 1-4 record on the year.

Last year marked Valverde's most successful campaign as a closer, but he still had the same control issues. His walk rate wasn't as high as in years past, but he still walked 3.6 batters per nine innings. While he showed he was capable of holding down a closer's role over a full season, but he won't make that jump to an elite closer until he can improve his control.

Valverde is worth taking as a low-end No. 1 closer in fantasy drafts next year, mainly because he is coming off his first year as an upper-tier closer. He doesn't have the track record to be a rock-solid option. He will not likely earn as many save opportunities with Houston as he would have with the Diamondbacks. That combined with his potential to implode on the mound means fantasy owners will want to have a solid backup. 

Qualls likely will at least be in the mix to replace Valverde, if he's not named as the replacement soon. The 29-year-old right-hander had five saves in 82 2/3 innings pitched while going 6-5 with a 3.05 ERA. He had 78 strikeouts compared to 25 walks and registered a WHIP of 1.32. He will have to fight off a relief corps that includes former closer Brandon Lyon.

Burke toiled in limbo as a utility player for the Astros last season. He hit .229 with six home runs and 28 RBI in 319 at-bats while spending time at second base, shortstop and in the outfield. He will most likely be in the same spot with the Diamondbacks, who don't have any lineup holes to fill at this point. He doesn't have fantasy value.

Gutierrez is in the same boat of fantasy irrelevance. The 24-year-old right-hander went 1-1 with a 5.91 ERA in 21 1/3 innings pitched last season. He started in three of his seven appearances.

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About Michael Egnak

Michael Egnak is a Hot Off The Wire Analyst at KFFL and has been with the company since 2005. Covering both NFL and MLB, Egnak is also a key contributor to KFFL's fantasy services.

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