Astros sign reliever Chad Qualls to a two-year contract

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One day after inking right-handed starter Scott Feldman to a three-year, $30 million contract, the Astros have signed veteran reliever Chad Qualls to a two-year deal with a club option for 2016. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that Qualls will make $6 million guaranteed in the deal while the option is worth $3.5 million.

Qualls, 35, is coming off a solid season with the Marlins in which he posted a 2.61 ERA and 49/19 K/BB ratio over 62 innings, mostly in a set-up capacity. He posted his highest strikeout rate since 2010 while his 63.3 percent ground ball rate was the highest of his 10-year career. Though let’s be honest, he made more news for doing this than anything he did on the mound.

Qualls was originally drafted by the Astros in 2000 and spent his first four major league seasons with the club. He’s a curious fit for a team which isn’t anywhere close to contention, but the club’s recent activity should keep the MLBPA off their backs and Qualls might even get a chance to close games given how unsettled they are in their bullpen.

UPDATE: According to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said that Qualls isn’t confirmed to be the closer yet and that the club could still add another reliever.

Report: The White Sox and Diamondbacks are in on Manny Machado

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Buster Olney of ESPN reports that the White Sox and Diamondbacks have emerged as two of the strongest contenders for Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. It seems like a foregone conclusion that Baltimore will deal their superstar infielder this winter, but nothing appears imminent just yet. While both the White Sox and D-backs have reportedly made serious offers, Orioles owner Peter Angelos is wary of any non-contending team that might be incentivized to flip Machado to the rival Yankees next season.

The White Sox, for their part, have assured the Orioles that they view Machado more as a solid one-year rental than the new face of their franchise, with no immediate plans to deal him elsewhere. Given their current rebuilding status and the unlikelihood that they would contend in 2018, it makes their offer a bit of a head-scratcher — and, as USA Today Sports’ Bob Nightengale points out, they’ve been reluctant to put any top-5 prospects on the table in preliminary negotiations.

The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, are far better positioned to enter the postseason in 2018, though that doesn’t automatically make them the perfect landing spot for Machado. They already have Jake Lamb stationed at third base, and while it’s not inconceivable that they could jettison the Ketel Marte/Chris Owings/Nick Ahmed shortstop platoon for someone of Machado’s talent, his $17 million salary appears to be more than the D-backs are currently capable of absorbing.

The White Sox and D-backs may have exhibited the most interest in Machado so far, but they’re hardly the only contenders here. MASN Sports’ Roch Kubatko maintains that the Cardinals and Yankees remain in discussions for the 25-year-old, with Cardinals’ RHP Jordan Hicks and catcher Carson Kelly drawing interest, as well as Yankees’ top prospect Gleyber Torres. Any deal involving the Yankees still feels like a long shot, however; as Craig mentioned on Wednesday, it makes sense that the club wouldn’t want to see their star player hanging around their division rivals in 2018, and the Yankees should be well prepared to make a run at him in free agency next winter.