Valverde files for free agency

Valverde files for free agency

HOUSTON -- Astros closer Jose Valverde filed for free agency Monday, joining teammates Miguel Tejada, LaTroy Hawkins, Jason Michaels and Darin Erstad, who filed last week.

Valverde is coming off a stellar season in which he was 25-for-29 in save opportunities and posted the second-lowest ERA of his career at 2.33. He told MLB.com in September he was going to test the free-agent market after making $8 million in 2009.

Astros general manager Ed Wade said he hopes to re-sign Valverde, who figures to command a sizable raise in free agency.

Valverde, 31, led the National League with 47 saves for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007 before being traded to the Astros following that year. He led the NL in saves again in '08 with 44, but missed 41 games this past season with a strained calf.

After returning from the disabled list June 13, Valverde was terrific. He was 4-0 with 17 saves and a 1.64 ERA in the second half and didn't allow a run in 17 consecutive outings from Aug. 7 to Sept. 12. He finished the season having converted 19 consecutive save chances, the longest active streak in the NL. He had a 0.44 ERA in those games.

Relief pitcher Doug Brocail also filed for free agency Monday, but the Astros declined his option for 2010 and aren't going to bring him back.

Tejada made around $15 million last season, but he would need to take a significant pay cut to return to Houston despite leading the team in hits (199) and posting 86 RBIs. The Astros would move him to third base if they re-signed him.

Hawkins has posted a 1.71 ERA in 89 games in 1 1/2 years with the Astros and could be an option at closer if Valverde departs. Michaels hit .237 with four homers and 16 RBIs, but he batted .311 in the second half, and Erstad hit .194 in 150 at-bats.

Mike Hampton and Aaron Boone previously filed for arbitration, but their careers could be over because of health reasons.

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