Sean Pendergast

Houston Astros Sign Framber Valdez, Five Others

Framber Valdez is back for 2023 at a very reasonable price for the Houston Astros.
Framber Valdez is back for 2023 at a very reasonable price for the Houston Astros. Photo by Jack Gorman
The Houston Astros are about four weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to West Palm Beach for spring training. Despite the departure of American League Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, the squad is primed to defend its 2022 World Series title, and enter the season as the betting favorites to represent the American League in the fall classic again.

This past weekend, they checked off some of the final to-do items to nail down the roster for the upcoming season, as they reached agreements with six of their arbitration eligible players, and exchanged arbitration hearing proposals with the other two. (There is still the small matter of the team operating without a general manager, but owner Jim Crane seems to be perfectly comfortable operating as the de facto GM.)

The "big ticket" signing of the arbitration eligible crowd was 2022 All Star pitcher Framber Valdez, who agreed to a $6.8 million salary for 2023, up from $3 million in 2022. Valdez went 17-6 with a 2.82 ERA in 31 starts in 2022, while setting a Major League single-season record with 25 consecutive quality starts from April 25 to September 18. Valdez led the AL with 201.1 innings pitched,  and finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting. If they get a similar season in 2023, the Astros are sitting on one of the biggest bargains in baseball.

The two players who did not reach agreements with the team, and instead appear headed to arbitration, are All Star outfielder Kyle Tucker and postseason hero Cristian Javier. Tucker submitted a proposal of $7.5 million for his 2023 salary, and the team submitted a figure of $5 million. For Javier, the player is asking for $3.5 million and the team proposed $3 million.

Tucker and Javier can still negotiate a middle ground with the Astros, but if they are unable to do so by February, a hearing will be scheduled, and a panel of arbitrators will select either the player's proposed salary or the team's, with no middle ground available.

The hope of many Astros fans is that the team can reach long term agreements with all three aforementioned players — Valdez, Tucker, and Javier. It's been reported that Tucker had talks with the team about a long term deal last season, but nothing came to fruition. For what it's worth, Tucker is the clear cut favorite of the fan base to receive a long term deal, per this Twitter poll:
In 2022, Tucker hit .257 with 30 homers, 107 RBIs and 25 stolen bases in 150 games, while wining a Gold Glove. Javier went 11-9 with a 2.54 ERA in 30 games in the regular season. In n the playoffs Javier went 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA, striking out 16 batters and allowing two hits in 12.2 innings. He was the starting pitcher in the combined no hitter versus the Phillies in Game 4 of the 2022 World Series.

As for the other five arbitration eligible players who avoided arbitration with new, one year deals, here is the synopsis of those contracts:

RP RYNE STANEK, $3.6 million
2022 SALARY: $2.1 million
Stanek posted a microscopic 1.15 ERA in the regular season, but oddly only pitched three innings in the postseason. Stanek is eligible for free agency after the 2023 season.

SP JOSE URQUIDY, $3.025 million
2022 SALARY: $748,700
Urquidy went 13-8 with a 3.94 ERA in 29 starts in 2022. He pitched in one game in the postseason, tossing three scoreless innings in Game 3 of the World Series, but in his career, he has three wins in the World Series.

RP PHILLIP MATON, $2.55 million
2022 SALARY: $1.55 million

In 2022, Maton posted a 3.84 ERA in 67 games, but missed the postseason after breaking his hand while punching a locker in the final series of the regular season. Like Stanek, Maton is in his final year of arbitration eligibility, and will be a free agent after the season.

IF/OF MAURICIO DUBON, $1.4 million
2022 SALARY: $715,000

Dubon was acquired in a trade with the Giants in May 2022, and wound up starting at six different positions in a utility role. He hit .214 with five home runs.

RP BLAKE TAYLOR, $830,000
Taylor dealt with arm discomfort throughout the 2022 season and appeared in just 19 games, while posting a 3.84 ERA.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast