The Astros are a rebuilding team who is out of contention, so on the surface, they don’t have much need for a veteran closer. However, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com that he’s unlikely to move Chad Qualls before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
“I hesitate to use the word ‘untouchable,’ but he likes it here, he’s comfortable here and he’s pitching well,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “To have a guy who’s capable of pitching late in the game, in close games, we’re going to have opportunity going forward. This is a team that’s improving, and as the team improves, you have more save opportunities, more opportunities to pitch at the end of close games. We need more Chad Qualls. We don’t need less.”
Perhaps Luhnow is just posturing, but it’s easy to understand why he’s hesitant to deal him. Qualls is owed a little over $1 million for the rest of this season and $3 million in 2015 while his contract includes a $3.5 million club option for 2016 or a $250,000 buyout. The contract is an excellent value given the going rate of MLB closers, so the Astros would likely have to be overwhelmed to deal him.
Qualls has quietly enjoyed an excellent season with Houston, posting a 1.78 ERA and 31/4 K/BB ratio over 35 1/3 innings. He’s 11-for-13 in save chances.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.
The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.
Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.
Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”