Last night Ken Rosenthal reported an unnamed team claimed Houston Astros closer Chad Qualls on waivers. This morning Peter Gammons added Detroit was the team attempting to bolster their porous bullpen.
No surprise Detroit claimed Qualls— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) August 26, 2014
The only thing that might be surprising about that is that no team claimed Qualls before the Tigers did. The two teams now have 48 hours to consummate a deal, which media reports claim is unlikely.
The 36-year-old Qualls has been excellent as Houston's closer this year. He owns a 3.07 ERA, and his fielding independent pitching of 3.06 shows he hasn't just been lucky.
Qualls is striking out 7.77 batters per nine innings this year, slightly above career averages. In his career, Qualls has only walked an impressive 2.41 batters per nine, but this year he's only giving up an astounding 1.02 free passes every 27 outs.
The rest of his peripherals are rather normal, but his home run per fly ball percentage is 12.5%, a higher than MLB average and a little lower than his own career average. This explains his lower xFIP (2.79), which in this case isn't predictive of future performance, since there's no reason to expect his HR/FB to drop to 10%. It may be a good idea to have him pitch with a two or three run lead instead of a one run lead, but at an extra home run every 40 at bats, we're probably splitting hairs here.
A right-hander, Qualls does have significant splits: 1.95 FIP against righties and a 4.36 FIP against lefties. Still, the Tigers have used worse against left-handers.
At 36, one of the biggest concerns about Qualls will be his age. But in his age 35 season, Qualls had a bit of a renaissance with the Marlins in 2013 (2.61 ERA in 61 innings), his success lasting into 2014 after joining the Astros as a free agent. His effectiveness has been attributed to a mechanical change -- he's actually reverted back to his old mechanics.
The mechanical issue was a simple one to fix. Qualls had changed his landing spot to try to save his knee after having surgery on it at the end of the 2009 season. He then was ineffective from 2010 to 2012 until returning to his old landing spot after signing a minor league contract with Miami.
Qualls' contract has the potential to provide extra value: he's due $3 million in 2015 and has a $3.5 million team-option in 2016 with a $500k buyout.
Qualls would be an excellent addition to the Tigers' bullpen, but reports do say that a trade is unlikely. A Qualls trade would be reminiscent of the Jose Veras trade -- a reclamation project turned Houston closer with a seemingly-attractive team-option -- but with a fraction of the walks.