The Astros have until 11 p.m. CT Tuesday to offer salary arbitration to their own free agents, and the players have until Dec. 7 to accept or decline.
Players who accept arbitration are considered signed and will have their salary determined in the arbitration process or through negotiations. If they decline arbitration, they are still free to sign with the Astros.
The decision to offer arbitration has high stakes. Tejada, Valverde and Hawkins were classified by the Elias Sports Bureau 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.
"We've had a lot of conversations about our free agents, the guys who were ranked [by Elias Sports Bureau], and hopefully we'll make the right decisions," Wade said. "Obviously, if we offer and the players decline, then it sets us up in position to have a greater impact in the Draft.
"But at the same time, if we do offer and the players accept, we have to live with that as well. It's an important decision, and we'll sit down [Tuesday] before we have to make the decision."
If one of their Type A free agents sign with another team after being offered arbitration, the Astros would receive the signing club's first-round Draft pick in next year's First-Year Player Draft (assuming it's not among the top 15 picks) and a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds. A Type B free agent 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. He had 199 hits and 86 RBIs in 2009 and would likely make much more through arbitration than free agency.
The Astros are interested in bringing him back to play third base, but at much less than Tejada made in 2009.
Valverde, who made $8 million in 2009, is 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 may be less likely to accept arbitration than Tejada, because he could command a higher salary in free agency, as well as a multiyear deal.
The Astros have been in negotiations with Hawkins for weeks and are eager to re-sign him as a closing option if Valverde were to leave. Hawkins had a base salary $3.5 million last season and earned a total of nearly $4 million, including incentives. He was 1-4 with 11 saves and a 2.13 ERA.
Neither outfielder Jason Michaels nor infielder/outfielder Darin Erstad were classified in the rankings compiled by Elias. Reliever Doug Brocail is a Type B free agent, but the Astros declined his option for 2010 and aren't going to bring him back.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.