Trade would need to be completed before Wednesday; reliever would like to stay put
DETROIT -- The Tigers have long been interested in Astros closer Chad Qualls, even before he signed with Houston last winter. Their latest efforts to acquire him appear likely to meet the same fate as their previous ones.
"I don't think there's anything to talk about," manager Brad Ausmus said Tuesday. "As far as I know, Tigers baseball stance, there's really nothing to it."
Qualls told Houston reporters on Tuesday he was aware of the claim put in by the Tigers, first reported by MLB Network on Tuesday morning. That followed FOX Sports' report Monday evening that Qualls had been claimed on revocable waivers.
Under terms of revocable waivers, the Astros have 48 hours (thus, until Wednesday) to work out a trade, pull Qualls back off waivers or let him go to the Tigers. The third option is a virtual certainty not to happen. Detroit must put together a deal, or Houston has to hold onto Qualls for the rest of the season.
As of Tuesday evening, indications suggest the Astros are not inclined to move Qualls.
The Tigers were interested in Qualls last month before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but the Astros were reticent to deal. The two teams worked out a deal last summer for the Astros' previous closer, Jose Veras, in exchange for outfielder Danry Vasquez and pitcher David Paulino. With Qualls under a multi-year contract, rather than a rental, the Astros would be expected to seek more-advanced prospects.
Houston had a pro scout in Reading, Pa., while Double-A Erie was in town this past weekend. The SeaWolves have a selection of high-rising prospects, including slugging outfielder Steven Moya, gifted hitting infielder Devon Travis and reliever Angel Nesbitt.
However the Tigers -- who parted with highly ranked prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel for Joakim Soria in July -- appear unlikely to do the same for another reliever.
"I could have signed there in the offseason, and obviously they tried to trade for me at the Deadline, and with me being put on waivers, why wouldn't they take another chance now?" Qualls told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. "Yet again, nothing's changed. I'm going to go to work as usual and do my thing."
One potential factor is the sentiment of Qualls, who does not have veto power but has said more than once that he wants to remain an Astro. Qualls told reporters in Houston on Tuesday that he nearly signed a multi-year contract with the Tigers last December but chose to stay close to his Austin, Texas, home and sign a two-year, $5.95 million deal to return to the Astros, his original organization.
Qualls' contract includes a $3.5 million club option for 2016.
If anyone on the Tigers would know about Qualls, it's Ausmus, who caught Qualls in Houston from 2004 to 2007. If there's a deal brewing, however, it's news to Ausmus.
"Waiver claims this time of year, they don't really mean anything," Ausmus said. "I know there's been a lot said about it, but there's really nothing that I know about, quite frankly, other than what I've read.
Said Qualls: "I'm sure he wants me. I think around the Trade Deadline there were some other guys that were getting traded and I was just messing around and he's like, 'Well, if you would have just signed here in the first place, we wouldn't have to trade for anybody.' Just typical Brad Ausmus. Like I said before, I want to stay here and be a Houston Astro until I retire."
The 36-year-old Qualls is 14-for-17 in save chances in Houston to go with a 3.07 ERA, 46 hits and 38 strikeouts over 44 innings. He has walked just five batters this season, and two were intentional. The 11-year Major League veteran has been used to protect leads anywhere from the seventh to ninth innings, much like the role the Tigers had for Soria.
A trade would allow the Tigers to have Qualls fill in for Soria, who was in Detroit's bullpen for two weeks before a left oblique strain landed him on the 15-day disabled list. Soria is throwing off flat ground and is "trending upward" toward a return, according to Ausmus, but still has to throw off a mound. His return is on the horizon, but not imminent.
The Tigers have tried to fill the void with former Orioles and A's closer Jim Johnson, who signed a Minor League deal with Detroit on Aug. 7. Johnson earned a win at Tampa Bay a week ago with a scoreless 10th inning despite walking two Rays, but gave up four runs in a nine-run sixth inning in Friday's 20-6 loss to the Twins. Johnson came back Sunday at Minnesota and retired all five batters he faced, his longest perfect outing since April 11 with Oakland.