Astros decline Qualls' option; RHP a free agent

Reliever part of club's 2004-05 postseason appearances

Astros decline Qualls' option; RHP a free agent

HOUSTON -- The Astros informed right-handed relief pitcher Chad Qualls on Tuesday they weren't going to pick up his $3.5 million option for 2016 and will instead pay him a $250,000 buyout, leaving the veteran to become a free agent.

The Astros likely didn't want to commit that much money this early in the offseason. They will likely have to spend in free agency to re-sign outfielder Colby Rasmus or find a replacement, as well as trying to sign lefty reliever Tony Sipp, who's also a free agent. Houston also has nine arbitration-eligible players, who could command as much as $30 million if they all come back.

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Qualls, 37, appeared in 60 games for the Astros last season, going 3-5 with a 4.38 ERA. He was left off the team's postseason roster in the American League Division Series against the Royals. Qualls, who was drafted and developed by the Astros and was a key piece of their bullpen during their postseason runs in 2004-05, signed a two-year deal prior to the 2014 season.

Qualls on missing ALDS

Qualls spent most of the 2014 season as the club's closer before the team signed Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek last December to fortify the bullpen. He was drafted by the Astros in the second round in 2000 out of the University of Nevada, and he made his debut in 2004 and pitched in the World Series for the Astros in 2005.

After getting traded to the D-backs following the 2007 season, Qualls played for seven teams before returning to Houston.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.