Chad Qualls will be the Astros’ full-time closer

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The closer-by-committee is no more. Via MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart, Astros manager Bo Porter says that Chad Qualls will be the team’s closer going forward.

“We have a lead in the ninth, Chad Qualls will get the ball,” Porter said. “He’s really been good of late and it actually looks like his [velocity] is back, his heavy sinker has been working — it’s ground ball after ground ball. If we have a lead and he’s available, he’ll get the ball.”

Qualls, Anthony Bass, Josh Fields, and Raul Valdes have all recorded at least one save for the Astros since the season started. The 35-year-old Qualls, however, has had the most success among them, posting a 3.55 ERA with a 15/3 K/BB ratio in 12 2/3 innings.

The Astros’ relief problems extend beyond just their closing situation, however. The bullpen’s aggregate 5.73 ERA is by far the worst in baseball, well ahead of the Blue Jays at 5.29.

Dodgers acquire Matt Kemp in five-player trade with Braves

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The Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.

Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.

Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.