Astros extend qualifying offer to Keuchel

Gonzalez, Morton don't receive QOs, are now free agents

November 2nd, 2018

HOUSTON -- The Astros gave a qualifying offer on Friday to former Cy Young winner , the lefty who's won 76 games in seven seasons in Houston. Keuchel has 10 days to accept a $17.9 million salary for 2019 to stay with the Astros or reject it and become a free agent.
Infielder/outfielder and pitcher Charlie Morton were possible candidates to receive qualifying offers, but they can now sign with another club without the club having to forfeit Draft picks. Keuchel has until 4 p.m. CT on Nov. 12 to accept or reject the offer, but a decision won't take that long.
"I've put everything into the Astros, so I fully expected to get one," Keuchel said. "I'm a little shocked Marwin and Charlie didn't get one. That's what they felt like, so we'll see within the next 10 days. I would assume we'll turn it down and look at other offers and figure out what's best."
Qualifying offers explained
The $17.9 million salary is the mean salary of the league's 125 highest-paid players. If Keuchel rejects the qualifying offer and signs with another club, the Astros would receive compensation in the form of a pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. The lefty didn't rule out returning to Houston.
"I think they're doing what's best for the Houston Astros as a business," he said.
Keuchel, who won the 2015 American League Cy Young Award, went 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA in 34 starts for the Astros last season, reaching 200 innings for the third time in his career. After starting the season 3-8 with a 4.45 ERA in his first 14 starts, he went 9-3 with a 3.23 ERA in his final 20 starts. He figures to have many suitors on the open market.
"It's the element of the unknown that's a little concerning, but I have a few vacations lined up," he said. "I'm not going to be thinking about it much. I'll be getting updates and doing my due diligence. I'm going to be enjoying the whole process and I'll figure out where me and my family want to be."

Morton, who signed to a two-year, $14 million deal prior to the 2016 season, went 29-10 with a 3.36 ERA in 55 starts with the Astros in the best two-year stretch of his career. He won both Game 7 of the 2017 AL Championship Series and World Series. He was 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA in 30 starts this year, but battled shoulder discomfort in the final month of the season.
Gonzalez, the first player acquired by president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow after being hired by the Astros in December 2011, hit .247 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs this season, setting career highs in games (145), plate appearances (552) and walks (53) while starting games at left field, shortstop, first base, second base and third base.
In 2017, Gonzalez had his best season, hitting .303 with 23 homers, 90 RBIs and a .907 OPS that earned him a few down-ballot votes in the AL Most Valuable Player race. He started every game in left field during the Astros' championship run in '17, hitting a dramatic, game-tying homer in the ninth inning off Dodgers closer in Game 2 of the World Series. The Astros won the game en route to their first championship.

The Astros' other four free agents are catcher , designated hitter Evan Gattis, catcher and lefty reliever , none of whom was a candidate to receiving a qualifying offer.
Meanwhile, the Astros declined the club option for 2019 for relief pitcher Will Harris, who is still arbitration-eligible and under contract with the team in 2019. Harris signed a two-year deal prior to the 2017 season with a club option for a third year for $5.5 million, but the Astros believe they can get a cheaper salary for '19 through the arbitration process.