Last night, when I read that the Houston Astros had signed former Yankees minor league pitcher Jose Valdez, I assumed it was a minor league deal that might be worth a note at some point. Then I read on Mike Ashmore’s blog that Valdez was added to the Astros’ 40-man. Checking the Astros official site confirmed the move. I won’t say this is the most unexpected baseball news I’ve ever read, but it’s close.
Valdez was once fairly highly touted but had fallen into organizational player status with the Yankees. He put up good numbers but was basically a guy who could fill a bullpen role in Double-A and Triple-A. When he came to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season, he was the last guy in the pen. Never remotely close to a big league call-up.
“The Valdez kid threw well last season, and he’s lighting up the Dominican Winter League,” Houston GM Ed Wade told mlb.com. “We had a couple of guys see him down there and they felt this kid had a chance to be a real significant contributor to the back end of the bullpen. We gave him a roster spot as a Minor League free agent, which is a rarity.”
Valdez is worth keeping an eye on just to see if the Yankees completely missed the boat.
Speaking of former Yankees minor league pitchers, Jeff Karstens has been designated for assignment by the Pirates. Pittsburgh previously let Eric Hacker leave as a minor league free agent. Hacker was traded to the Pirates for Romulo Sanchez, who the Yankees just added to the 40-man, so at least the Yankees got the better of the Pirates in one move.
Chase Wright and Matt DeSalvo, by the way, are also minor league free agents. They were part of that massive group of 2007 rookies who made emergency starts for the Yankees. Another from that group, Tyler Clippard, pitched well out of the Nationals bullpen this year and seems to have solidified a major league job.