According to the Houston Astros, they have declined the 2016 option on Chad Qualls' contract, making him eligible for free agency.
The #Astros have informed RHP Chad Qualls that the club will not pick up the 2016 option on his contract.— Houston Astros (@astros) November 3, 2015
The right-hander pitched one of the most disappointing seasons of his long career, with a 4.38 ERA over 49 relief appearances for the Astros in 2015 after serving as the club's primary closer in 2014, earning 19 saves. Though Qualls limited walks and increased his strikeout rate in 2015, he allowed the highest rate of home runs in his career. Advanced metrics FIP and xFIP were more charitable to him than ERA as a result, but at thirty seven years old, and with plenty of options available to take his place in the 2016 bullpen, the Astros apparently decided that $3.5 million was too much to spend on a pitcher who they did not feel comfortable enough with to even add him to the American League Division Series roster.
2014-2015 was Qualls' second stint with the Astros, as he was a member of the 2005 World Series roster as well. No mention has been made to date if Qualls will try to continue his major league career elsewhere or retire after twelve major league seasons.
In trying to project how Qualls would fit into the 2016 bullpen, it seems like this was the obvious move for the Astros. Barring a trade, the following relievers are currently under contract or team control through the 2016 season, with a handful being arbitration eligible:
Additionally, they used a couple top starting pitcher prospects, Vincent Velasquez, Asher Wojciechowski, and Michael Feliz as relievers this past season. With a crowded 2016 rotation and little left to prove int he minors, one of those guys may fit in the bullpen either temporarily or for a permanent conversion. And finally, there is a host of minor league pitchers ready for a shot, such as 29 year old James Hoyt, acquired in the Evan Gattis trade, who pitched a 3.49 ERA with 66 strikeouts and only 11 walks in 49 innings for Fresno this season.