Astros offer arbitration to Valverde

Astros offer arbitration to Valverde

HOUSTON -- General manager Ed Wade said it would take some "economic gymnastics" for the Astros to be able to retain Type A free agents Jose Valverde, Miguel Tejada and LaTroy Hawkins.

With that in mind, Wade and his staff decided Tuesday to offer arbitration to only Valverde, leaving Tejada and Hawkins free to sign with other teams without the burden of costing those teams compensatory draft picks. Valverde has until Monday to decide to accept arbitration and return to Houston in 2010 or decline and remain a free agent.

"First of all, we'd love to be able to figure out a way to have Jose, Hawkins and Tejada all back, and it's still possible," Wade said. "It's going to take some economic gymnastics to make it happen. We just felt it made sense to offer Jose, who's a premier closer. If he signs elsewhere, we'd end up with two draft picks, and if he accepts arbitration and comes back to us, we'll be overjoyed."

The Astros also didn't offer arbitration to Type B reliever Doug Brocail, who isn't in the club's plans for 2010.

Valverde, 31, saved 25 games in 29 chances and posted a 2.33 ERA in 52 games last season, missing 41 games with a strained right calf. He went 4-1 with 23 saves and a 1.76 ERA in the final 44 games and finished the season with an active save streak of 19.

If Valverde, who made $8 million last season, winds up signing with another team, the Astros would receive two compensation picks in next year's First-Year Player Draft, a factor that could make some teams think twice about signing the former All-Star closer.

Houston would get a first-round pick and a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds if the signing team has a pick in the second half of the first round (15-30). If the signing team has one of the top 15 picks in the Draft, the Astros would get a second-round pick instead of a first-round pick.

"His reps know what the situation is, and it's up to them to explain the process to Jose and also to continue to see what's out there," Wade said.

The fact that Tejada and Hawkins won't cost the signing teams any Draft picks will make them more attractive in the market.

"If we had offered arbitration, it probably would run some teams off because more and more clubs are trying to protect Draft picks," Wade said. "There are probably some teams out there that were waiting to find out what their status would end up being."

Tejada, 35, led the Astros in batting average (.313) and hits (199), drove in 86 runs and ended last season on a 21-game hitting streak. The Astros would be interested in moving him from shortstop to third base if he returns. Tejada made around $14 million last year.

"I'd love to have Miggy back here and he did everything we could have asked him to do," Wade said. "He made two All-Star teams, had 199 hits and 46 doubles [in 2009] and had an impact on the club both on and off the field.

"There's no reason we wouldn't love to have him back, but the reality is if that were to happen here it would probably entail a position change to third base and certainly would entail a reduced salary. That's probably not the most attractive pitch I could paint for [agent] Diego [Bentz], but that has been the case for all the conversations we've had the last 2 1/2 weeks."

The Astros have had an offer on the table for Hawkins for several weeks but haven't been able to get a deal done. Hawkins had a base salary $3.5 million last season and earned a total of nearly $4 million with incentives. He was 1-4 with 11 saves and a 2.13 ERA.

"We had hoped early on that it would gain some momentum and we could get something done sooner rather than later," Wade said. "Once it drifted to the point in time we're at now, we had to make some very pointed business decisions. The reality again was if we were offering arbitration multiple times and multiple guys accepted, I don't know if that all fits into our payroll number."

Like other teams, the Astros are keeping tabs on which players have not been offered arbitration, which could have an impact on future negotiations. Wade said the possibility of gaining Draft picks by losing Valverde may allow the Astros to be more aggressive in the market.

"The guys that are not carrying Draft-pick compensation create a different dynamic," Wade said. "If by some chance Valverde was to reject our offer of arbitration and sign elsewhere, we'd have two additional Draft picks and in that case there may be ranked players [by the Elias Sports Bureau] we would take a run at."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.