Astros reach accord with Valverde
Houston avoids arbitration by inking 2008 NL saves leader
HOUSTON -- Last year, Jose Valverde and the Astros were miles apart in terms of deciding on a salary figure for the 2008 season. The case went to an arbitration hearing, which favored the Astros and left the good-natured Valverde disappointed.
This time around, a hearing won't be necessary. The Astros avoided arbitration with Valverde by inking him to a one-year deal worth $8 million, marking the closer's final contract before he hits the free-agent market in 2010.
Valverde nearly doubled his salary after making $4.7 million in 2008, and his contract includes a number of incentive clauses. He will earn an extra $100,000 if he's named the National League Rolaids Relief winner, $50,000 for second and $25,000 for third. He'll earn $50,000 if he's named MVP of the World Series or the NLCS. He'll also make an extra $25,000 for winning a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger or if he's named to the All-Star team.
General manager Ed Wade, who oversaw arbitration hearings with Valverde and Mark Loretta last year, expressed satisfaction that this deal was done so early.
"It certainly alleviates a lot of pressure on both sides," Wade said. "I'm sure Jose wasn't looking forward to the possibility of going through the process again, and it's never something we look forward to, either. Jose led the league in saves the last two years, and he's a big part of our ballclub. To get this signed, sealed and delivered is a big step forward for us."
The 30-year-old Valverde posted 44 saves last season, tying Houston's single-season record. He recorded a 3.38 ERA over a career-high 74 appearances.
Valverde is the first of the Astros' six arbitration-eligible players to sign. Assistant general manager Dave Gottfried, who completed the deal with Valverde, is in the process of talking with the agents for Brandon Backe and Wandy Rodriguez, while assistant GM Ricky Bennett is working with the representatives for Humberto Quintero, Geoff Geary and Tim Byrdak.
Salary figures have to be filed by Jan. 20, and Wade hopes the negotiations with the rest of the players move as quickly as they did with Valverde.
"If we could be out of the arbitration business by tomorrow, that would be great," Wade said. "I don't think that's going to happen, but if we can find common ground sooner rather than later, that would be ideal for everyone."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.