Astros: Inconsistent closers since Pujols home run
Papa Grande was coming off a 2007 season with Arizona in which he led the majors in saves with 47 and finished sixth in the Cy Young Award voting. He was heading into his age-30 season with two years of team control remaining. He’d established himself as an All-Star closer, and the Astros had a clear need for one.
The Astros traded Chris Burke, Chad Qualls and J.C. Gutierrez to the Diamondbacks to get Valverde. His first season with Houston in 2008 was largely a success, as he led the major leagues in games finished (71) and led the league in saves (44). His 3.38 ERA wasn’t overly impressive, but he even garnered a little MVP consideration.
He missed a little time with injury in 2009, but still appeared in 52 games and posted a sterling 2.33 ERA and 25 saves. His hit and home run rates improved from the prior season, but his strikeout and walk rates were trending in the wrong direction. Presumably with that in mind, the Astros let him leave in free agency.
Valverde signed with the Tigers as a free agent and had some success, including a 2011 season in which he led the league in appearances, games finished and saves, finishing fifth in the Cy Young voting. His last major league appearance came with the Mets in 2014.
In two seasons, Valverde gave the Astros 69 saves, a 2.93 ERA and 10-5 record. He may not have quite matched the Wagner and peak Lidge numbers, but he was more than capable of handling the role. In the ensuing seasons after his departure, the Astros would not come close to replicating that stability.