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Astros opt not to tender Fiers a contract

Houston righty, who threw a no-no in '15, is a free agent
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- Right-hander Mike Fiers, who threw a no-hitter against the Dodgers in 2015 and led the Astros in innings pitching this season, is a free agent after Houston opted not to tender him a contract before Friday's deadline.

The Astros tendered contracts to their remaining eight arbitration-eligible players: catcher/designated hitter Evan Gattis, right-handed pitchers Ken Giles, Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock and Lance McCullers Jr., left-handed pitcher Dallas Keuchel and outfielders Jake Marisnick and George Springer.

HOUSTON -- Right-hander Mike Fiers, who threw a no-hitter against the Dodgers in 2015 and led the Astros in innings pitching this season, is a free agent after Houston opted not to tender him a contract before Friday's deadline.

The Astros tendered contracts to their remaining eight arbitration-eligible players: catcher/designated hitter Evan Gattis, right-handed pitchers Ken Giles, Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock and Lance McCullers Jr., left-handed pitcher Dallas Keuchel and outfielders Jake Marisnick and George Springer.

The Astros' 40-man roster sits at 38.

Fiers, 32, made $4.085 million last season. Given his performance last season and the team's depth, the team decided to non-tender him. He went 8-10 with a 5.22 ERA in 29 games (28 starts) last season, giving up 32 home runs in a team-high 153 1/3 innings, but he had a terrific 10-game stretch from May 30-July 21 in which he was 6-2 with a 2.36 ERA. His 58 starts the last two seasons led the Astros.

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"He gave us some really important innings this summer when the rest of our guys weren't able to deliver as much as we'd hoped," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "He's a big part of what the Astros have done these last three years, so his contributions will always be remembered. Looking forward, we have a lot of options for our rotation and given the resources that it would take to sign him to arbitration this year, we felt those were better deployed elsewhere."

The loss of Fiers closes the book on the Astros' July 30, 2015, trade with the Brewers in which they acquired Fiers and outfielder Carlos Gomez, a former All-Star who struggled mightily in Houston. The Astros sent prospects Josh Hader, Adrian Houser, Brett Phillips and Domingo Santana to Milwaukee, and all have appeared in big league games for Milwaukee.

The highlight of Fiers' stint in Houston came on Aug. 21, 2015, when he threw a 134-pitch no-hitter -- the only one in the history of Minute Maid Park and 11th in Astros history -- to beat the Dodgers. This year, Fiers struggled to keep the ball in the ballpark, save for his 10-game stretch in midsummer, which was key considering the injuries the Astros had in their rotation.

"I've got to thank the Astros for trusting in me, trading for me and having me pitch those 2 1/2 years there," Fiers told MLB.com. "But it definitely sucks leaving those guys, who you built great relationships with and bonded with for so many times throughout the year."

As far as the Astros' remaining arbitration-eligible players, the club can sign any of them before Jan. 12, the deadline for exchanging desired salary figures for 2018. If the two sides can't reach an agreement after that, a three-person arbitration panel will determine the salary following a hearing, typically in February.

The eight remaining arbitration-eligible players could command between $40 million-$50 million in total payroll next year.

"We have a big group and it's a really good group of players," Luhnow said. "We're going to methodically work through it and hope to get as many deals done as possible before the exchange date, and in some cases, we'll probably have multi-year [contract] conversations.

"We're just starting that process now. We certainly have a lot of work to do, but we're excited about the players we have in our organization. We have a couple of spots available on the 40-man now, so we have some flexibility to sign some free agents and potentially pick up a Rule 5 player and some other things. We're in a good spot. We're very comfortable with where we are right now as far as our roster." 

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros, Mike Fiers