Rasmus accepts qualifying offer

Astros outfielder first player to take one-year deal under system

Rasmus accepts qualifying offer

HOUSTON -- Now that Colby Rasmus knows he'll be returning to the Astros next year after accepting the Astros' qualifying offer of $15.8 million on Friday, he can turn his attention to more pressing matters. Rasmus, who said it's been too hot to hunt deer, is attending a cattle auction Saturday in his native Alabama for his cattle ranch.

The only place Rasmus is more at home than the outdoors is at Minute Maid Park, where the outfielder was a key player on the 2015 Astros team that lost to the Kansas City Royals in five games in the American League Division Series. After hitting .238 with a career-high 25 homers and 61 RBIs in 137 games, Rasmus is thrilled to return to Houston.

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He becomes the highest-paid Astros player for 2016, with a salary that's determined by averaging the top 125 player salaries from the previous year.

Rasmus accepts qualifying offer

"I was hoping something would go through with the Astros," Rasmus said. "That's where I wanted to be at. I had a blast last year and kind of ended on a sour note as we all know. … When it came about, I was surprised and thrilled they extended the offer to me."

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said getting Rasmus back into the fold was one of the team's offseason priorities. The outfield is set with Rasmus, center fielder Carlos Gomez, right fielder George Springer and backups Jake Marisnick and Preston Tucker.

"I'm thrilled to have Colby Rasmus back," Luhnow said. "He had a tremendous year with us last year, and he was really an integral part of a team that exceeded expectations and got through the Wild Card and made it to a five-game series against the eventual world champion Royals, and Colby was a big part of that throughout the summer and especially September and October."

Rasmus, who made $8 million last year, thrived in a clubhouse environment set by manager A.J. Hinch in which he was allowed to be himself, and he and his family were comfortable in Houston. He was a big part of the feel of the clubhouse.

"It was in my heart and my wife's heart to go to Houston," Rasmus said. "I just wanted to be in Houston and playing baseball again with those same group of guys. That sour taste in my mouth, I'd like to get that out if I can and try to help this organization, this team, and get back to the playoffs and hopefully win the World Series. That was the ultimate goal."

Luhnow maintained he wanted Rasmus to accept the offer, even though the Astros would have received a Draft pick had he declined and signed with another team.

"This is how the system is supposed to work, and we're excited Colby is going to be here for another year," he said.

The signing of Rasmus means the Astros are out of the market for free-agent outfielders, and the team's focus now shifts to the bullpen and starting pitching. The Astros need a bullpen arm -- though Luhnow insists it doesn't necessarily have to be a power arm -- and a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Luhnow said the Astros budgeted for an aggressive offseason and part of that was recognizing Rasmus would take a significant investment.

"We have resources to go accomplish the goals we have this offseason," said Luhnow, who added the team could explore a long-term deal with Rasmus at some point.

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.