Bud Norris Rumors
With one-fourth of the season in the books, let's have a look around some injury situations and how they might impact the developing trade market.
- The Cardinals and Yankees provide an interesting case study as we enter the second quarter of the season. Both have excellent records and lead their division. Both have sizeable payrolls as well as large portions of those payrolls sitting idle on the DL. Both have had to insert players onto their active roster that they did not anticipate. But, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch well explains, the source of those substitute bodies has been drastically different. While the Yankees spent well over $20MM to bring in players like Lyle Overbay, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells -- all of whom are 34 or older -- the Cards reached into their minor league system. Remarkably, St. Louis has plugged all of its holes with players making league minimum, including young pitchers John Gast, Shelby Miller, and Seth Maness.
- The Goold piece also includes some valuable insight from GM John Mozeliak. According to Mozeliak, amongst the team's Double-A and Triple-A rosters, "there is almost at any one position, if we needed help at the big leagues, someone we could call on from there." He acknowledges that such cheap, youthful depth cannot always be achieved, and says the team is prepared to pursue other markets as necessary. "I don't want us to go down the path where we feel like we've created this functional model and don't utilize a really robust pro scouting model that makes sure we understand the trade market and understand the free agent market. We can't be scared of those." Yet, by looking internally first, the team has managed to retain salary flexibility to add outside impact down the line. "This organization's way now of staying healthy is not being tied to those outside markets to fill needs," says Mozeliak. "Having some young players step up like they are now gives us additional flexibility when we're going to need it."
- The Cards' internal depth will once again be put to use with starter Jaime Garcia now staring at a strong possibility of season-ending shoulder surgery, writes Goold. Even with fellow starter Jake Westbrook also stuck on the DL, the team has multiple options among its current relief corps and Triple-A rotation that make a look outside the organization unlikely. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Garcia's replacement(s) can match his strong start to the year. He had thrown 55 1/3 innings of 3.58 ERA baseball to open the season. Veteran starter Chris Carpenter is increasingly shaping up as a viable mid-season option for the club. But any setback in his surprising recovery, or hiccups among the team's young hurlers, could lead St. Louis to consider eventually utilizing some of its salary reserves and young minor league depth in a trade.
- The Braves are another National League contender dealing with injured arms. As Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com's Matt Snyder writes, Eric O'Flaherty appears likely to join fellow setup man Jonny Venters as a season-ending Tommy John patient. While the team seems likely to utilize internal options to fill in for the present, the loss of its two late-inning lefties leaves the team with just one southpaw in the pen, Luis Avilan. Ultimately, then, Atlanta could be forced to explore the trade market to re-establish its depth as the season wears on.
- Teams shopping for starters at the trade deadline appear likely to find a limited supply of attractive arms, says ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required). Two Cubs pitchers headline the developing market, with Scott Feldman shaping up as the surprise top option at the moment. (Matt Garza, of course, will begin his potential audition on Tuesday.) In addition to several other well-documented trade candidates in Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins and the Astros' Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell, Olney pegs the Padres' Jason Marquis and Edinson Volquez as likely available. Meanwhile, Bartolo Colon of the Athletics and Cliff Lee of the Phillies could also be dealt, writes Olney, with the A's having other internal options and the Phils still weighing how to proceed with their excellent (but expensive) 35-year-old co-ace.
In his first winter of arbitration eligibility, Bud Norris settled on a $3MM salary from the Astros for the 2013 season. While $3MM is nothing to sneeze at, it's a stunningly tiny sum when it's the highest salary on a modern team's active roster. That's the way it goes for the Astros, who are paring their payroll down to miniscule size (and their roster to miniscule size in terms of talent, as their 11-30 record indicates) in order to completely rebuild their franchise.
When a team is having a fire sale on prominent veterans, it only stands to reason if the next step is to move absolutely every asset, even a 28-year-old right-hander who is under team control through the 2015 season. While Houston has been open to hearing offers for anyone, GM Jeff Luhnow has said that "it would take a significant offer to even consider something" involving Norris or Lucas Harrell. While the Astros aren't interested in posting a respectable record now, they also don't want to go 0-162; a couple of decent arms are still needed who can eat innings, give the bullpen a rest and keep the team in games as best they can.
There's also the fact that Norris hasn't been doing much for his trade value thus far in 2013. Norris has a 4.32 ERA, 5.9 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and only a 38.8% ground ball rate through his first nine starts. He is also facing some injury uncertainty, as the righty left his most recent start with back spasms. While Norris is the Astros' nominal ace, he would receive a trade return befitting a fourth or fifth starter, so Houston might feel like Norris has more short-term value to them on the mound than he would as trade bait.
That said, Norris is still a 28-year-old with a 91.8 mph fastball who averaged 169 innings and 8.8 K/9 from 2010-2012. There would definitely be teams interested in seeing if Norris could blossom outside of the Astros' dire situation. If not a starter, then Norris could perhaps have value as a reliever --- ESPN's Jayson Stark reported earlier this month that many teams feel Norris "profiles more as a bullpen weapon on a contender." A team like the Tigers, for example, who is looking for bullpen help and also for starting pitching depth (though Rick Porcello has pitched better as of late) could pursue Norris a solution to both problems.
Since the Astros seem at least three years away from contending, Luhnow seems to have taken the position that unless a player stands a solid chance of still being a productive force on "the next good Astros team," that player should be moved. Norris is scheduled to hit free agency after the 2015 season and he'll be 31 years old on Opening Day 2016, so that might already make him too old to be considered a viable part of the next generation of Astros baseball.
A few consistent starts and a clean bill of health leading up to the July deadline would raise Norris' value and maybe make it worthwhile for Luhnow to consider making yet another move for the future.
Photo courtesy of Thomas Campbell/USA Today Sports Images
In his latest edition of Rumblings & Grumblings, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark looks at what we've learned around the 30-game mark of the season. The Red Sox have spent their money better than any team in baseball as Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, Koji Uehara, and Shane Victorino (before his back issues) have gotten off to excellent starts. Meanwhile, it looks like the Braves have made the best trade of anyone so far as they landed Justin Upton and Chris Johnson for Martin Prado and four players that aren't currently in the majors. Here's more from today's column..
- Teams that have checked in on Brian Wilson have been told that his target date to throw for interested clubs should be around the All-Star break. Wilson wants to ensure that he's fully recovered from Tommy John surgery before auditioning again.
- Giancarlo Stanton's hamstring injury should probably put any talk of a July trade to rest. "If they trade him in-season, they probably wouldn't get any major league talent," said one exec. "So given everything that's happened with their team and their attendance, are they really in a position to make a deal for him where they just get back prospects? Probably not." The exec concluded that the Marlins are better off waiting until the offseason and getting big league ready talent back for their star.
- The Rays may be the most closely-watched team in the league by contenders over the next few months. Teams know the Rays will keep David Price in July if they're alive in the AL East, and will listen hard if they're out of contention. If they're caught in between, one exec believes that the Rays still might move him if they feel like they're not good enough to win it all. The hurler's price tag is expected to by skyhigh if he hits the open market after the 2015 season.
- The buzzards are already starting to circle over the Phillies, Stark writes, but club officials have told teams that have checked in that they still expect their club to contend and won't even think about selling for another two months.
- If a Phillies sell-off happens, the biggest buzz would include impending free agent Chase Utley. One exec who has checked into things says his impression is that the Phillies would approach Utley first and get a feel for whether he wants to go elsewhere. Utley, who will be just short of 10-and-5 rights at the deadline - can block trades to 21 teams.
- Execs say they'd rather trade for Lucas Harrell than Bud Norris if they had a choice between the Astros pitchers. Harrell has two more years of control and one scout says that the big knock on Norris is that he's still basically a "two-pitch guy". Quite a few teams also think he profiles more as a bullpen weapon on a contender even though he's the Astros' ace.
- The Yankees want a right-handed bat, but one scout feels that they don't have enough pieces to land an impact deal. The Bombers added one right-handed hitter when they traded for Chris Nelson earlier this week.
ESPN's Buster Olney relays (via Twitter) a stat from the Elias Sports Bureau, noting that the Astros have received just 15 1/3 innings from their starters over the past six games -- tied for fewest in a six game span in the past 35 years. Offseason acquisition Brad Peacock will look to turn that trend around tonight when he faces a struggling Mariners offense. Here's more on the Astros in their first year in the American League...
- General manager Jeff Luhnow told reporters, including MLB.com's Brian McTaggart, that the team's bullpen can't take much more of the past week's trends: "We can't take too many more hits before we have to go out and make some moves."
- Luhnow has no plans to trade Bud Norris anytime soon, reports McTaggart. Luhnow told McTaggart that Norris is a "critical part of the team" and noted that the constant rumors are unfortunate for all parties involved. Norris hasn't been on the trading block for quite some time, according to Luhnow.
- Luhnow also said that Erik Bedard is basically "going through the finishing touches of Spring Training" (Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle reporting via Sulia). The Astros have limited Bedard to four innings per appearance thus far, which has contributed to the aforementioned 15 1/3 innings stat.
- McTaggart reports that the Astros have sent Roger Clemens out to scout potential No. 1 overall draft picks (Twitter link). The Astros seem to be focused on college players, as McTaggart goes on to list right-hander Mark Appel (Stanford), right-hander Jonathan Gray (Oklahoma), left-hander Sean Manaea (Indiana State) and third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant (San Diego) as players of interest.
In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that strikeouts are on the rise this season and there are an abundance of theories as to why. One prominent AL GM believes that the umps are using a wider strike zone. Former pitcher Curt Schilling believes the strikeouts are piling up because there are more power arms than ever before. Others believe that there are a lot of youngsters in the game right now who may not be major league ready, leading to a lot of Ks. Here's more from today's column..
- As the Orioles look for pitching help, there’s an increasing feeling among baseball people that Zach Britton is the arm the Orioles could dangle in a deal. The 25-year-old has begun the season well in Norfolk and has 1.98 ERA with five strikeouts and seven walks in three starts.
- Astros pitcher Bud Norris could be the No. 1 guy on contenders’ wish lists - along with the Cubs’ Matt Garza, if he’s healthy and productive - according to an AL GM. Erik Bedard can also draw interest but he has an injury history, which scares teams off. Carlos Pena has value because of his power and could find himself on a contender if he has a strong showing in Houston.
- Scouts feel that Red Sox minor league outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker has put himself back on the map as a player teams might be interested in trading for. Early in the season, the 25-year-old has a slash line of .271/.308/.563 with four homers in Triple-A. Scouts say he has taken a far more aggressive approach at the plate and is swinging at good pitches in good counts. Hazelbaker is also showing some power and is considered a plus defensive outfielder.
- The Red Sox never pursued Ted Lilly while he was available because it would have been too difficult to add him to the 25-man roster. The Sox have been looking for a veteran starter they can keep at Triple-A in reserve, but haven’t found the right guy.
- Brad Penny is still a free agent and looking to get back to the majors. However, he's still waiting for a team to bite. The 34-year-old last pitched for the Giants in 2012 and also had a disappointing few months with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in Japan.
Here's the latest from the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo:
- Pitcher Bud Norris of the Astros has "drawn interest from at least six teams," but Houston does not appear interested in trading him.
- The Yankees have had discussions about Lyle Overbay, who could platoon with Juan Rivera at first base in Mark Teixeira's absence. Overbay is currently with the Red Sox, but he has an out clause in his contract that he can trigger on Tuesday.
- The Red Sox aren't inclined to deal reliever Clayton Mortensen, even though he is out of options.
- The Orioles, Brewers, Indians, White Sox, and Mets have all had "internal discussions" about surplus Dodgers starters Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly and Aaron Harang, and scouts feel that the Dodgers will ultimately trade at least one of them.
- The White Sox are looking for another starter because John Danks, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, has struggled this spring, allowing 21 runs in 11 innings.
12:04pm: About a half-dozen teams have inquired on Norris but Houston has yet to engage in serious talks, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (on Twitter).
THURSDAY, 9:10am: Astros GM Jeff Luhnow suggested a trade involving Norris or Harrell doesn't seem likely, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports. "I've always maintained that there's no such thing as an untouchable, but at the same time, Harrell and Norris are such an important part of this club right now it would take a significant offer to even consider something," Luhnow said.
WEDNESDAY: The Astros are still telling teams that they'll listen on anyone if they get two or more players back in a deal, rival clubs tell Jayson Stark of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Lots of scouts are eyeing right-hander Lucas Harrell in particular.
Recently, we learned that the Cardinals have interest in Harrell and fellow hurler Bud Norris. Last season was Harrell's first full big league season and the 27-year-old looked strong as he posted a 3.76 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 32 starts.
In addition to "asking about" available shortstops, the Cardinals are "interested in Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris of [the] Astros," reports MLB Network's Peter Gammons (on Twitter). While the Cards' interest in help up the middle is unsurprising (in spite of GM John Mozeliak's recent statements), St. Louis was not expected to be in on starting pitching.
As MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith detailed at the start of the offseason, the Cardinals already "feature an effective starting rotation with a combination of established veterans and powerful young arms." And as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently explained, the team was thought at this point to be narrowing its choice between Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller for the team's fifth starter spot. Of course, the Cardinals have already allowed Kyle Lohse to test the free agent waters for quite some time after the veteran turned down his qualifying offer.
Meanwhile, Harrell and Norris (both righties) are coming off of solid, if unspectacular, 2012 campaigns. Harrell, 27, threw 193 2/3 innings of 3.76 ERA baseball in his first full big league season. Norris, in turn, is entering his age 28 season after posting a 4.65 ERA over 168 1/3 innings last year, and features a longer history of performance at the highest level. Certainly, St. Louis is well-positioned to add either pitcher if it so chooses, as it possesses the kind of farm depth that would appeal to an Astros team that has been aggressively cutting payroll and adding young, unproven talent.
The Mariners dominated headlines around baseball today, agreeing to an extension with Felix Hernandez, agreeing to terms with Joe Saunders, finalizing a one-year deal with Kelly Shoppach and designating Shawn Kelley for assignment. While the bulk of the news from the AL West came from Seattle, here are some more items from around the division...
- In an interview on the MLB Network (video link), Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said he was looking forward to having Bud Norris in the rotation next season and that he wasn't currently talking to anyone about trading the right-hander. Luhnow noted, however, that the Astros' recent history has shown "we're willing to talk to any club about any player if we feel the deal furthers our strategy to develop the best young talent in baseball....We'll continue to look at all options." FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported on Tuesday that Norris was available and that the Cardinals, Padres and Orioles were all interested in Norris during the Winter Meetings.
- Speaking of Houston's recent moves, Luhnow's trades as Astros general manager are recapped by MLB.com's Brian McTaggart.
- "Our currency is not cash. Our currency is young players," Athletics GM Billy Beane tells CBS Sports' Danny Knobler. While the A's won't see a major payroll increase in 2013, the team has been dealing young talent in exchange for more expensive veterans this offseason since Oakland feels it can contend next season.
- The topic of a Jurickson Profar-for-David Price deal was recently posed to ESPN's Keith Law during a radio appearance, and ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett goes further in-depth in analyzing the specifics of such a trade between the Rangers and Rays. Durrett would make the trade since it would give the Rangers a proven ace, while Law wouldn't make the deal one-for-one since Texas would be giving up too many years of team control. Law, however, doesn't think Tampa Bay would consider such an offer anyway since, "it would be very hard for the Rays to justify a deal like that with the perceived value of Price."
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow remains confident the organization has taken the right steps to field a competitive team in the near future even with payroll that may fall short of $25MM, writes Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. "I think people are focusing on what the Major League payroll is, and I think the reality is we're making a huge investment in our people," Luhnow said. "We're not going to do something to improve a few games in 2013 that comes at the expense of our ability to compete over the long haul."
Let's take a look around the AL West to catch up on the latest news and headlines.
- The Astros may move another key player before the start of Spring Training as Bud Norris has been drawing attention and is available for the right package, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com. The 27-year-old right-hander is set to earn $3MM during the 2013 season, making him the highest paid player on the Astros roster.
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels spoke with reporters for 40 minutes on Tuesday as he addressed the burning question of whether he did enough this offseason to keep Texas competitive in 2013, writes Anthony Andro of FOXSportsSouthwest.com. "What I'm excited about with this club is all the things we've talked about for years, we like the core of this team, recommitting ourselves to pitching, to the athletes, to giving our young guys a chance, to finding the right guys to fit the club, to finding the right veteran presence."
- Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt will be given every opportunity to make the big league club out of Spring Training for the Rangers, but look for Leury Garcia to compete for a spot as well, says Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News. Garcia, 21, has spent the majority of his career as a middle infielder but recently gained experience playing outfield in the Dominican Republic Winter League.