If you’ve been an Astros fan for more than a few years, then you are probably somewhat familiar with Chad Qualls. The right-handed reliever broke into the league with Houston back in 2004 and spent four productive seasons in the Astros’ bullpen. After bouncing around the league for a few years, Qualls rejoins the Astros in 2014. Will his return be a triumphant one?
The Astros inked Qualls to a 2-year contract last month, hoping the veteran will be a stabilizing force in what proved to be the league’s worst bullpen in 2013. In addition to Qualls, Matt Albers and Jesse Crain have also been brought in to work the late innings for Bo Porter and the Astros.
Qualls altered his delivery after a 2009 knee injury and his numbers suffered. Last spring, in camp with the Miami Marlins, Chad rediscovered his mechanics. The result — a bounce-back season. Pitching for the last place Marlins, Chad logged 15 holds and posted the best ground ball rate (63.3%) and ERA (2.61) of his career. In 66 appearances covering 62 innings Qualls held hitters to a .247 average.
The Qualls deal is reportedly worth $6 million for two years with a club option for $3.5 million in 2016 ($250K buyout). This might be a bit of an overpay for a 35-year old reliever, but the Astros bullpen situation demanded it. If Qualls can stay healthy he should prove to be worth the money.
Chad Qualls (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)