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Astros retain Michaels, part ways with Blum

Astros retain Michaels, part ways with Blum

HOUSTON -- The first decision of the offseason was a rather easy one for Astros general manager Ed Wade.

The Astros on Monday elected to exercise their 2011 option on the contract of outfielder Jason Michaels, a versatile backup who hit .253 with eight homers and 26 RBIs in 106 games this year. Michaels will receive $900,000 next year, which is $100,000 more than he made in 2010.

"He does a lot of things well for us," Wade said. "The fact he can play all three outfield positions and can give us a good at-bat off the bench, even when he's not playing, is big. Those are all huge contributions he makes.

"Aside from that, his presence in the clubhouse is very much appreciated. He's great at communicating with the young guys and sort of carrying the message that [manager Brad Mills] and the coaching staff are trying to deliver out there. That's a big residual benefit as well. He's a real good professional player and a versatile guy."

The club also made official what Wade had confirmed a day earlier, that veteran infielder Geoff Blum's $1.65 million option for 2011 wasn't going to be picked up. Wade left the door open for Blum to return as a free agent, but Blum spoke Sunday as if his days in Houston were over.

The 37-year-old Blum hit .267 in 93 games this season, making starts at all four infield positions. Right elbow surgery put him on the shelf for a month this summer. Blum had spent the last three seasons in Houston after joining the Astros as a free agent in November 2007.

"Blummer's a special individual and he did some great things," Mills said. "Being a veteran influence on this ballclub was good and he did a real good job for us off the bench. As a manager, you're going to miss guys like that. ...

"What went into not having him back? I know we looked at a lot of things, maybe what we wanted to do with the money issues and things of that nature. Again, we're turning and moving on and that's no reflection on Blummer. He couldn't have been a more outstanding person, teammate and clubhouse guy."

Blum, who will receive a $150,000 buyout, has expressed an interest in playing closer to his family in San Diego and has said he'd be willing to explore joining the D-backs. Blum and Michaels were the only two players with options.

With Blum and Michaels taken care of, the only remaining free agent the Astros have is pitcher Brian Moehler.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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