Kelley L Cox / USA TODAY Sports

Houston Astros Decline 2016 Team Option On Chad Qualls

Veteran right-hander Chad Qualls' will head to free agency after the Houston Astros declined his club option.

The Houston Astros announced Tuesday they declined to exercise their $3.5 million option on right-handed pitcher Chad Qualls for next season and bought their way out of the 37-year-old reliever's deal for $250,000.

The club's decision, though not unexpected after he struggled down the stretch and was left off the playoff roster, was bittersweet for the popular player who had started his career with the expansion club as a second-round pick in 2000 and had hoped to retire with it after returning in 2014 to help reverse the fortunes of its bullpen.

After serving as the club's main closer and earning 19 saves with a 3.33 ERA in his first season, his second year saw an uptick in his HR rate and corresponding spike in his ERA to 4.38.

Overall, throwing to a 3.84 ERA and 89/14 K/BB ratio over 101 IP during the past two seasons -- including an 8.4 K/9 rate this year that was his highest in seven years -- the 12-year major league veteran will likely have no problem attracting short-term deals from relief-starved clubs this winter if he decides not to hang up his glove.

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