Astros face arbitration decisions
If you were the general manager of the Astros, what would you do?
The Astros have until Tuesday night to offer salary arbitration to their own free agents – a list that includes shortstop Miguel Tejada, closer Jose Valverde, reliever LaTroy Hawkins, outfielder Jason Michaels and infielder/outfielder Darin Erstad.
Players offered arbitration have until next Monday to decline or accept the offer. If they accept, they are considered signed players and will have their salary determined through an arbitration hearing or negotiations. If they decline, they are still free to sign with the Astros or any other team.
The decision to offer arbitration has high stakes. Tejada, Valverde and Hawkins were classified as Type A free agents, which means the Astros would get draft picks if the players were offered arbitration and sign with another team. If they’re not offered arbitration and sign with another team, the Astros don’t get compensation.
If a Type A player signed with another team after being offered arbitration, the Astros would receive the signing club’s first-round draft pick in next year’s draft (assuming it’s not in the top 15 picks) and a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds. A Type B free agent, such as Doug Brocail, would bring only a sandwich pick.
Tejada made around $14 million last season and appears headed for a healthy pay cut on the free-agent market, which makes it seem unlikely the Astros would offer him arbitration. Valverde, who made $8 million last season, is likely headed for a raise after coming off a season in which he was 4-2 with a 2.33 ERA and converted 25 of 29 saves. He would be less likely to accept arbitration if he was offered by the Astros because he could command a higher salary in free agency.
The Astros have been in negotiations with Hawkins for weeks and are eager to re-sign him to be an option at closer if Valverde leaves. Hawkins had a base salary of $3.5 million last season and made nearly $4 million in incentives and was 1-4 with 11 saves and a 2.13 ERA.
Here’s what I would do:
Jose Valverde: Offer arbitration. He’ll have some strong interest and will likely get a multi-year deal from somebody, so I think it’s doubtful he would accept arbitration. If he does, you have an expensive, but capable closer.
Miguel Tejada: Don’t offer. He’ll get nowhere near the kind of money in the free-agent market than he would in arbitration, which he would accept in a heartbeat. If he wants to come back, it will have to be at a discount. The Astros can’t afford paying a third baseman $14 million next year.
LaTroy Hawkins: Offer arbitration. Sure, he’ll get a raise, but the Astros need the Hawk, especially if Valverde bolts. If he accepts and becomes the closer, he’ll still likely make less than Valverde did in closer’s role last season.
Jason Michaels: Don’t offer. I think the Astros should re-sign him, but I don’t expect there to be a big market for him and he’s not going to bring compensation anyway.
Darin Erstad: Don’t offer. Erstad is one of my favorite guys, but how much does he have left?