Carter sent to free agency; Conger traded

Astros tender contracts to 6 other arb-eligible players

Carter sent to free agency; Conger traded

HOUSTON -- The Astros non-tendered slugger Chris Carter prior to Wednesday's deadline to offer him salary arbitration, making him a free agent.

The club announced late Wednesday the remainder of its arbitration-eligible players were tendered a contract: 2015 Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, catcher Jason Castro, designated hitter Evan Gattis, third baseman Luis Valbuena, infielder Marwin Gonzalez and reliever Josh Fields. Catcher Hank Conger, meanwhile, was traded to the Rays for cash considerations.

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"It was late and I thought maybe it was going to happen, but it's a business," Carter said about 20 minutes prior to the 10:59 p.m. CT deadline. "It just gives me the opportunity to go somewhere else and help another team out."

Carter becomes a free agent for the first time in his career and should draw some interest because of his raw power.

"It's exciting," he said. "Uncharted territory for me. I've never done that before. It's a new thing for me. We'll see what comes up."

Carter made $4.175 million last season and hit .199 with 24 homers and 64 RBIs following a September surge in which he led the Majors in batting average (.353), slugging percentage (.971) and OPS (1.376) from Sept. 18 until the end of the season. He hit six homers with 10 RBIs in that span.

MLBTradeRumors.com estimates that Carter could get $5.6 million next season in arbitration, which would have been a tough pill for the Astros to swallow. The Astros have options at first that include Valbuena, top prospect A.J. Reed and Minor Leaguer Tyler White. Jon Singleton and Matt Duffy are still in the mix at first as well, but they could choose to go outside for a proven bat as well.

The Astros acquired Carter, pitcher Brad Peacock and catcher Max Stassi from the A's on Feb. 4, 2013, in exchange for shortstop Jed Lowrie and reliever Fernando Rodriguez. Carter hit 29 homers in 2013 and led the Majors in strikeouts with 212. He batted .227 with 37 homers and 88 RBIs in 2014, following a huge second half. He hit .298 with 23 homers and 55 RBIs in 61 games from July 3-Sept. 14.

"It was nice to be in an organization and watch the team build and grow," Carter said. "I enjoyed my time there and I'm happy for them. No hard feelings."

Here is what the remaining arbitration-eligible Astros players are estimated to get, according to MLBTradeRumors.com: Valbuena ($5.8 million), Castro ($4.6 million), Gonzalez ($1.9 million), Keuchel ($6.4 million), Fields ($800,000) and Gattis ($3.4 million).

Players who were tendered contracts can sign at any time with the club. If they haven't signed by January, the team and the player will exchange salary figures in advance of February's arbitration hearings.

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.