HOUSTON -- Veteran catcher Brian McCann, who caught nearly every inning in the playoffs last year during the Astros' run to the World Series championship, became a free agent Wednesday when the club declined his $15 million option for 2019.
Also becoming a free agent was right-handed pitcher Jandel Gustave, who was outrighted off the 40-man roster. Gustave was on the team's Opening Day roster in 2017 but didn't pitch again for the Astros after undergoing Tommy John surgery in June '17. He underwent ulnar nerve transposition surgery this summer, which ruled him out for the season.
The moves leave the Astros with 33 players on the 40-man roster.
McCann, acquired by Houston two years ago in a trade with the Yankees, was one of the final pieces of the roster that set up the Astros to make a run at the World Series in 2017. He hit .241 with 18 homers and 62 RBIs in the regular season for Houston that year, started 17 of the Astros' 18 playoff games and was behind the plate when Houston clinched the World Series title.
This year, he missed 59 games because of two trips to the disabled list and had surgery in early July to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. McCann hit .212 with seven homers and 23 RBIs in 63 games during the regular season and finished 0-for-8 at the plate in the playoffs.
McCann will enter his 15th season in 2019. He began his Major League career with the Braves in '05, posting a .961 OPS with 24 home runs in '06, his first full season. Following nine seasons with Atlanta, he signed as a free agent with the Yankees. He spent three seasons with New York, hitting 69 homers with a .731 OPS over that span.
McCann is one of seven players from the 2018 Astros who are free agents, joining pitchers Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Tony Sipp, designated hitter Evan Gattis, catcher Martin Maldonado and infielder/outfielder Marwin Gonzalez.
The Astros must decide by 4 p.m. CT Friday to give qualifying offers to any of their free agents. If a player accepts a qualifying offer from the Astros, he'll be under contract next year for $17.9 million -- the mean salary of the league's 125 highest-paid players. If he's extended a qualifying offer and declines, Houston will receive a compensation Draft pick if that player signs with another club.
Keuchel, a first-time free agent, will be extended a qualifying offer, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, but not Gonzalez. Both players are represented by Scott Boras. Morton has hinted he might retire.
Only five of the 73 players who have been extended qualifying offers since the system began in 2012 have accepted the offers, including Colby Rasmus with the Astros after 2015. The players have until 4 p.m. CT Nov. 12 to accept or reject the qualifying offer.