LAS VEGAS – Houston Astros general manager Ed Wade denied a report that he has ruled out trading closer Jose Valverde as he tries to shed payroll amid the sagging economy that has already cost the Astros two of their biggest sponsors.
"I did not say that," Wade said. "We will make every effort not to move him. But I can't say for sure that we wouldn't."
Valverde, 29, led the National League with 44 saves last season and is due a hefty raise from his $4.7 million salary in 2008. With such a buyer-friendly closers' market – even with Francisco Rodriguez signing with the Mets and Kerry Wood closing in on an agreement with the Indians – Wade would have to sell Valverde low.
His other big pawn, shortstop Miguel Tejada, is also part of a crowded positional market. Still, the Astros are in extreme sell mode on Tejada, according to one general manager. The Astros have indicated they would be willing to take on part of Tejada's $13 million salary, the GM said.
"They are pushing him hard," the GM said. "Hard."
Wade said the economy has hit the Astros not only in the season-ticket-sales department but also in advertising revenue. A local car dealership that folded was one of its biggest sponsors, as was insurance giant AIG, which received $85 billion in government bailout money.