Relax. Relax. Nothing major going on here, no other shoe to drop. Just bear with me…
This evening MLBTR passed along a tweet from the Houston Astros informing us that the Jays have acquired Raul Valdes, a 36-year-old left-handed reliever, for a player to be named later, or cash. That got some ears to perk up, but to say that it’s a trade between the Jays and the Astros, and not one between those two organizations is a bit of a misnomer.
Valdes is out of options, which is exactly why, in order to get him to triple-A earlier this month, the Astros had to outright him. Valdes accepted the outright assignment, rather than elect free agency, and as a thank you for his troubles, the Astros have now shipped him off. But because he was no longer on their 40-man, he doesn’t need to be optioned or added to the Jays’ active roster. He can simply be sent to Buffalo, where he’ll add to the club’s thin left-handed relief depth. In terms of true relievers (i.e. not Happ, Nolin, Romero, etc.), the Jays only have Rob Rassmussen, Ryan Rowland-Smith (himself only with the club less than a month), and Richard Bleier waiting in the wings at Buffalo behind their invaluable tandem of Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup on the major league roster.
Bluebird Banter’s Minor Leaguer tweets that Rowland-Smith has a June 1st opt-out clause in his contract if he isn’t in the Majors, which is all the more reason for the Jays to be making a move like this.
Valdes may not look like much — besides proof that if you’re a lefty of anything resembling major league quality, you can forge a halfway decent career for yourself — but there is enough in him to understand why he’s intriguing. He had a bad 3.2 innings of work out of the Astros’ bullpen this year — three walks, two homers, and five earned runs over eight appearances — but over his three preceding partial seasons in the majors (78 IP), he struck out 10.0 batters per nine innings, walked just 2.19 per nine, and had a 3.51 FIP and 3.44 xFIP to offset a less pretty 4.96 ERA. And against lefties over that same sample, he was even better, striking out 45 and walking just six in 34 innings worth of work in the split, holding opposing hitters to a .266 wOBA.
He’s not a hard thrower (averaged 86.5 on his fastball the last two years), which, frankly, sounds scary as shit to have to potentially watch at some point down the line, but if the club is in enough of a race to need a LOOGY when rosters expand in September (fingers crossed!), or they need some cover should one of their big league relievers go down, he’s not the worst little pickup, by the looks of it.
That said, it’s a decidedly minor move. Let’s not get excited about it or anything.
Mike Wilner tweets confirmation that Valdes will indeed go to Buffalo, and that another roster move will be made later to make up for Marcus Stroman’s very sensible demotion yesterday.
It will be Valdes’s second stint in Buffalo, as he was there in 2010 as a member of the Mets organization, striking out 36 and walking 9 in 36 innings of 3.00 ERA relief work. The Jays are his seventh MLB organization since 2005, following the Cubs, Mets, Cardinals, Yankees, Phillies, and Astros. During that span he also pitched in independent ball, and spent the entirety of 2008 and 2009 in the Dominican and Venezuelan leagues.