Astros acquire Lindstrom from Marlins
Right-handed reliever lessens sting of Hawkins' departure
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Astros were able to rebound Wednesday from the disappointment of watching LaTroy Hawkins sign with the Milwaukee Brewers by hours later pulling off a trade that landed hard-throwing right-hander Matt Lindstrom from the Florida Marlins.
Lindstrom, 29, was one of Florida's most dependable relievers in his three seasons with the club and appeared in 54 games in 2009, converting 13 of 15 saves with an ERA of 5.89. He opened the season as the club's closer but battled elbow soreness and lost his job to Leo Nunez.
Houston sent Minor Leaguers Robert Bono, a pitcher, and Luis Bryan, an infielder, and a player to be named to the Marlins.
That player turned out to be Minor League infielder Jorge Jimenez, who the Astros selected from the Red Sox organization in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft and then sent to Florida to complete the trade.
"I don't even think excited is the right word to use," Lindstrom said. "I'm just looking forward to the opportunity to help the Houston Astros organization move forward. I followed the organization for a long time and look forward to contributing."
Astros general manager Ed Wade said Lindstrom could open the season as the closer, but he didn't rule out acquiring a more experienced closer through trade or free agency. Houston has been linked to trade talks with the Atlanta Braves, who are trying to unload Rafael Soriano.
The addition of Lindstrom bolsters a bullpen that was decimated with the losses of closer Jose Valverde, who turned down arbitration to remain a free agent and is seeking a multi-year deal, and Hawkins.
"Right now [Lindstrom] is the most experienced closer we have on the staff and that could be the case Opening Day, and if it is, we're fine with that," Wade said. "He's got an outstanding arm and throws up to 100 mph. He had some issues last year where [the Marlins] took a conservative approach, had some elbow issues that were resolved."
Lindstrom, whose fastball sits in the mid-90s and who has hit 102 mph on the radar gun, is arbitration-eligible for the first time and is set to see his salary rise from $410,000 to about $1.4 million. For Lindstrom, the chance to close games is exciting.
"I think that's the coolest thing about the whole situation is just the opportunity for advancement," he said. "I think I'll get a chance to close with Houston and hopefully display my skills and go out there and help them win games. We all know that's the most important thing. The opportunity that presents itself is unbelievable. I'm really excited to do that."
The acquisition of Lindstrom took some of the sting off losing Hawkins, who got a two-year deal from the Brewers that will pay him $7.5 million. The Astros offered one year and a vesting option and thought they had a chance to get the deal done before Hawkins joined former Astros teammate Randy Wolf in signing with the Brewers.
"I'm disappointed," Wade said. "I think the world of LaTroy, not only from the standpoint of what he brought to our club from a competitive standpoint but the kind of guy he is, the makeup he brought in the clubhouse and the presence he carries. A two-year guaranteed deal is something he's talked about trying to find for the last three or four years, and he found it at what we think may have been the 11th hour."
Hawkins called Wade to express his gratitude and had him in tears. Hawkins saved 11 games for the Astros in 2009 and had a 1.71 ERA in 89 appearances in his 1 1/2 years in Houston.
"I'm very disappointed [I'm not going back to Astros], especially because Ed Wade is a very good man," Hawkins said.
Bono, 20, was part of the bevy of young and talented arms the Astros had last season at Class A Lexington, where he went 10-8 with a 3.20 ERA in 25 starts. Bryan, the first player signed by Astros director of Latin American scouting Felix Francisco, hit .340 for the Gulf Coast League Astros.
"Our guys think Bryan is going to be a really good big league player, but he's 19 years old and X number of years away from the big leagues," Wade said. "Bono has a chance to pitch in the big leagues and we recognize it impacts the depth of those young arms, but if we have a chance to add a kid who could close and who has the stuff Lindstrom has, you have to give up something to get something."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.