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Astros abstain from qualifying offers

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Valbuena, Castro, Fister and Rasmus now outright free agents.

MLB: Houston Astros at Texas Rangers Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Qualifying offers have become a staple of the MLB offseason. The Houston had four players the team had to decide on by 4 p.m. central time: catcher Jason Castro, right-hander Doug Fister, third baseman Luis Valbuena, and outfielder Colby Rasmus.

The declined to extend the offer to all four. A stark change from last season when the Astros’ one-year, $17.2 million offer was excepted by Colby Rasmus — the first player to do in Major League history.

Valbuena, 30, batted .260 (76x292) with 13 home runs and 70 RBIs in 90 games last season. He was sidelined with a hamstring injury for the latter part of 2016. Houston promoted Alex Bregman and signed Yulieski Gourriel, forcing Valbuena to first base if he does return to Houston.

Rasmus, 30, was the Astros’ playoff hero in 2015 and their biggest question mark in 2016. The eight-year veteran struggled to stay on the field with injuries and struggled at the plate when he was healthy. Rasmus batted .206 (76x369) with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs in 107 games.

Fister, 32, proved to be a fine addition to the Astros rotation for the lion’s share of the season. But struggles to start 2016 and fell off hard at the end of the season. He was 12-13 with a 4.64 ERA and a 1.425 WHIP in 32 starts.

Castro, 29, has been an Astros his entire professional career. Houston drafted Castro out of Stanford in the first round of the 2008 draft. Castro has been a stable backstop for Houston with above-average framing skills, he batted .210 (69x376) in 113 games last season. But Evan Gattis found new life in his bat once he returned by behind the dish, thus putting Castro’s future with the team in doubt.

10 players received qualifying offers: Yoenis Cespedes, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Mark Trumbo, Ian Desmond, Dexter Fowler, Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, Jeremy Hellickson and Neil Walker.

Players have until next Monday to accept or decline the offer. If the players do not accept the one-year, $17.2 million offer, a team will have forfeit a first-round draft pick in the 2017 MLB draft in order to sign said players.