Some of the teams interested in Valverde would not have had to have give up their first-round picks because those picks came within the first 15 overall selections, but the Astros were thrilled the Tigers decided to sign Valverde. The Astros will also pick eighth overall with their own first-round pick.
"You get a chance to ingest some top-of-the-Draft quality into the system," assistant general manager Bobby Heck said. "It's an opportunity to expedite our process a little of restocking the Minor Leagues."
Valverde turned down arbitration last month in search of a two-year deal. He made $8 million in his second season in Houston in 2009 and could have fetched as much as $10 or $11 million in arbitration had he accepted the offer.
In addition to picking up two extra Draft picks, including a first-rounder, the Astros used the money they would have spent on Valverde and signed reliever Brandon Lyon, traded for reliever Matt Lindstrom and signed third baseman Pedro Feliz.
"I thought we entered into the Valverde situation in a win-win situation," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "If he had accepted arbitration, we would have ended up with the best free-agent closer on the market. As it turned out, we were able to satisfy the back end of the bullpen with Lyon and Lindstrom, and to score Draft picks -- particularly a first-round Draft pick -- is very satisfying.
"I like what he did for us and we would have loved to have him back, but at end of the day we have to look at end results, and we felt that being able to add two additional Draft picks in 2010 is a pretty favorable conclusion for us."
Had the Astros signed Valverde and re-signed LaTroy Hawkins, who turned down Houston and signed with Milwaukee, they would have been precluded from adding Lyon, Lindstrom, Feliz and pitcher Brett Myers, who came to terms last week on a one-year deal with a mutual option. The signing of Myers pushes the Astros' payroll into the mid-$90 million range, which is ahead of where they originally thought they'd be.
Since Wade tabbed Heck to rebuild the Minor League system, the Astros have had a pair of strong Drafts. Jason Castro, the first-round pick in 2008, could be on the Major League roster on Opening Day, and several other recent Draft picks -- infielder Jiovanni Mier, pitchers Jordan Lyles, Ross Seaton and Tanner Bushue and outfielders Jay Austin, Jon Gaston and T.J. Steele -- are among the organization's top prospects.
Meanwhile, Wade returned Thursday from Arizona, where all 30 general managers met for two days. Commissioner Bud Selig addressed the GMs on Wednesday and covered a number of topics, and the GMs were given the rare chance to sit in on the Owners Meetings for the first time.
"Any chance to talk about business and the craft is good for us," Wade said. "There are some pretty smart guys in the room and a lot of good ideas, and it's a good chance to be in a relaxed setting and not be worried like we were in November [at the GM meetings] to schedule meetings with agents or talk to other clubs about needs. Everybody is more in a mode of discussion on issues that impact all of us."