There are quite a few teams in desperate need of relief pitching this offseason, with the Houston Astros being among them. With the state of the Astros bullpen, it would seemingly not make sense for them to listen to offers for any of their actually good relievers. Yet, it may actually behoove the Astros to field inquiries on their closer, Chad Qualls.
Qualls had a solid season for the Astros last season after coming over as a free agent, posting a 3.33 ERA and a 1.149 WHiP, striking out 43 batters against five walks, two of which were intentional. A sinkerball pitcher who relies upon that control to get outs, Qualls generated almost two ground ball outs for every fly ball out last season, while having a ground ball to fly ball rate of 1.37:1 last year.
However, there may be underlying reasons for concern with Chad Qualls, potentially even as soon as next year. While Qualls still generated ground balls at an impressive rate, he allowed line drives on 24% of plate appearances against him. Part of that hard contact was mitigated by his ability to generate grounders, but it would seem that eventually, that rate would catch up to him.
The question with Qualls is, was that line drive rate a one year aberration or a sign of things to come? At age 36, it is highly likely that Qualls best days are behind him, unless he happens to find that Barry Bonds fountain of youth (side effects may include not getting voted into the Hall of Fame and an ever increasing hat size). With Qualls only signed through next season, as 2016 is a team option, it may be best to see what the market would bear for Qualls as of right now. Teams may be willing to part with more at this point, as opposed to waiting at the trade deadline.
Chances are, Chad Qualls would be able to get the Astros a mid level prospect. However, for a team desperate for relievers, such as the Detroit Tigers, Qualls may be worth a bit more. Given the flammable nature of the Tigers bullpen last year, would they potentially be willing to give up a player like Angel Nesbitt, who they left unprotected in the 2013 Rule V draft?
It may be counter intuitive for a team that needs help int he bullpen to trade one of their more reliable relievers. However, the Astros should consider just that in regards to Chad Qualls.