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.

Bryce Harper played some third base in an intrasquad game

Bryce Harper third base
Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper played some third base during Monday’s intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports. Harper had been pestering manager Joe Girardi for the opportunity and the skipper finally gave in.

Girardi told Harper, “No diving. And make sure your arm is loose.” Harper had the opportunity to field one ball, a grounder to his left and he made the play perfectly.

Why put Harper at third base? Girardi said, “I think it’s important the guys have fun. I saw him a week ago taking ground balls there and I was impressed. His hands worked well out front and he threw the ball across the field well. I told him, ‘You look good there.'”

Despite the solid showing, don’t expect Harper to show up at third base in a meaningful game anytime soon. That being said, the Phillies’ second and third base situations are still not cemented. Jean Segura will likely open the season at the hot corner with Scott Kingery at second, but things could change between now and Opening Day in 10 days.

Harper, 27, is coming off a solid first season with the Phillies. He hit .260/.372/.510 with 36 doubles, 35 home runs, 114 RBI, 98 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases across 682 plate appearances. Per FanGraphs, Harper’s 4.6 Wins Above Replacement ranked 16th in the National League. For some people, those numbers weren’t nearly good enough, so the expectations remain high as Harper enters year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract.