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Why avoiding arbitration with Framber Valdez is a sign of good things to come for Astros

Astros Martin Maldonado, Framber Valdez
Framber Valdez will earn $6.8 million in 2023. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.
Houston Astros whiff on primary free agent target

The Houston Astros avoided arbitration with six players on Friday, one of which was first-year All-Star and left-handed pitcher Framber Valdez.

Houston and Valdez agreed to a one-year, $6.8 million deal for 2023. The Dominican Republic native is coming off his best season yet for the Astros, going 17-6 in his starts during the regular season with a 2.82 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 194 strikeouts.

His numbers only continued to be stellar in the postseason as he led the Astros to their second World Series title in franchise history. Valdez, who is 29 years old, has been with the Astros since the 2018 season, and he has shown improvement after each year.

With both sides being able to reach an agreement on a deal, unlike with right fielder Kyle Tucker and starting pitcher Cristian Javier, it could be a positive sign of things to come, and here is why.

Unlike with Tucker and Javier, who according to MLB.com both sides are just off when it comes to what fair value is following each respective player’s 2022 season, the Astros and Valdez were in agreement on what both believed was a fair deal.

Valdez’ 2023 salary will be more than double what he was paid in 2022. With the Astros losing Justin Verlander in the offseason to the New York Mets, Valdez will likely be the team’s No. 1 ace in the new season.

With both sides being on the same page, it shows one, there is mutual respect, and two, it makes it more likely that long-term negotiations could play out the same way. If Valdez and his representation can continue to be in constant communication with the Astros, while being in agreement, there will be less incentive to seek greener pastures elsewhere.

Houston has shown in the past that they are willing to offer extensions to players they're in agreement with before they can hit the open market. The Astros did it with second baseman Jose Altuve years ago in 2013.

The team did it again in 2019 with Alex Bregman, and it also did it in 2021 with Lance McCullers Jr., which is arguably the most comparable situation with that of Valdez.

In comparison, the Astros’ situation with Carlos Correa in 2021 played out differently when both sides were negotiating and there was much more disagreement on what fair value was. Correa left the team in free agency the following year.

While not every situation plays out the same way, history is on the side that favors both Valdez and the Astros coming to a long-term agreement that keeps the pitcher out of the open market. One thing is certain, Valdez will be looking to prove that he is worth being an ace for a perennial World Series contender.

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With both Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers making their way back from surgeries that sideline that Astros pitchers last season, and given the team's thin depth in their starting rotation, Houston fans and media have waited on bated breath for scraps of information to leak out of the notoriously secretive organization regarding their progress.

In a week full of mostly Hurricane Beryl-related bad news, the Astros organization had some discouraging news of their own when manager Joe Espada told the media that Lance McCullers has been shut down from pitching after his arm did not respond well to his latest bullpen session. The team says they are "formulating a plan for what's next."

Another Astros starter making his way back from injury is HOF-bound Justin Verlander. Verlander has been on the IL since June 16th with neck discomfort and, while there was initial hope that JV would only miss a start, his status has become increasingly murky as he is still apparently not close to returning.

Shifting from the health questions of the starters to the performance questions of the bullpen, some Houston fans have voiced concern via social media that Astros big-ticket 9th inning pitcher Josh Hader is not looking like a "shut-down" closer. Hader gave up more home runs in the first week of July (3) as he did the entire month of June (2).

In this week's episode of Stone Cold Stros, Charlie Pallilo and Brandon Strange discuss how the fluid dynamics of Astros pitching is impacting the competitive landscape of the division race. To watch the conversation, just click the video YouTube embedded in this article. To listen to the entire episode on podcast, search "Stone Cold Stros" in your favorite podcast app or click one of the following links.

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