The Cardinals are receiving trade inquiries into closer Bud Norris, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, with the Rockies and Red Sox among the teams that have shown interest to this point. In a second column, Goold adds that the club is “open to discussing offers” for both Norris and first baseman/outfielder Jose Martinez.
The Red Sox have been tied to countless relievers of late, it seems, and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM tweets that they, along with the Phillies, Astros and Mariners, are “in” (to varying extents, of course) on practically every bullpen arm that is available on the market at this point.
Norris wasn’t supposed to be the Cardinals’ top bullpen addition of the offseason — far from it — but that’s unequivocally how things have played out. While the Cardinals gave Greg Holland a one-year, $14MM contract to serve as their closer and also signed Luke Gregerson to a two-year, $11MM deal, Norris and his one-year, $3MM deal have been the lone bullpen signing to pay dividends. Holland was released on Friday amid a seismic shakeup of the St. Louis pitching staff, while Gregerson been plagued by injuries all season and owns a 7.11 ERA through just 12 2/3 innings thanks to multiple DL stints.
Norris, meanwhile, stepped up and seized the ninth-inning gig from Holland and Dominic Leone (another offseason ’pen addition who has yet to pan out). Through 43 innings, the 33-year-old Norris boasts a 3.14 ERA with 11.7 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, 1.05 HR/9 and a 41 percent ground-ball rate. His fastball and sinker are both averaging nearly 95 mph, the best of his career, and Norris’ ridiculous 38.3 percent chase rate (that is, out-of-zone pitches that have induced a swing from opponents) ranks seventh among 158 qualified relievers.
Earlier this month, Norris spoke to the Post-Dispatch’s Rick Hummel about his hopes to sign a long-term deal to remain with the Cardinals, though his affordable salary and excellent results could make him as appealing a trade candidate as they do an extension candidate for the St. Louis front office. As it stands, he’ll be a free agent at the end of the season and is still owed $1MM of his $3MM salary, making him affordable for any team in search of a upgrade.
As for Martinez, there’s little question about the late-blooming 30-year-old’s ability to produce at the plate. He’s mashed at a .304/.371/.487 pace since making his Major League debut in 2016, and his current .294/.359/.461 output is considerably better than that of a league-average bat (23 to 24 percent better, when adjusting for park and league, per OPS+ and wRC+). Martinez’s power is down a bit from 2017, but he’s still walking at a solid 8.9 percent clip and has improved his strikeout rate, which sits at just 16 percent. He can be controlled through the 2022 season and won’t even be eligible for arbitration until after the 2019 season.
While all of that is decidedly positive, Martinez’ glovework is on the opposite end of the spectrum. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak candidly acknowledged earlier this month that Martinez’s defensive shortcomings at first base were “putting a lot of stress on everyone,” and the team has since shifted him into a part-time role and given him more time in the outfield recently. Martinez, though, has played 328 innings in the outfield and turned in dismal defensive marks (-8 Defensive Runs Saved, -5 Ultimate Zone Rating). He hasn’t fared any better at first base, though, and there’s been speculation that he could ultimately land on an American League club where his bat would be better serve in a DH capacity.