Should The Astros Consider Trading Bud Norris

The Mark Melancon trade yesterday marked the first move by new GM Jeff Luhnow, and with it also signaled a change in approach from the previous regime. Melancon was coming off of a career year and his value was high. Given the current state of the franchise Luhnow decided that it was more important to trade Melancon for a solid middle infielder along with a guy that possesses the potential to become a back of the rotation starter rather than keeping a back of the bullpen reliever. Basically Luhnow sold high on Mark Melancon, which also makes you wonder if there are any other guys on the current roster that Luhnow would consider selling high on. One name that is a possibility is Bud Norris.

As Native_Astro alluded to in this week’s podcast, given what the A’s received from the Diamondbacks in the Trevor Cahill trade, along with their expected asking price for Gio Gonzalez, now may be the time to start listening to trade offers on Bud Norris. Being under team control through 2016 doesn’t make trading Norris a necessity, but it could make sense given where the market currently stands on starting pitching to field trade offers. With that being said, listed below are some of the pros and cons of trading Bud Norris.

Pros

Selling High – Coming off of a solid season in which Norris pitched a career high 186 innings while recording a 3.77 ERA, Norris could draw a decent amount of interest should he be made available. Add to that the fact that he would be under team control until the 2016 season, and is still very cost effective, and Norris could slide right in behind Gio Gonzalez as the next best thing available on the starting pitching front.

Injury Concern – Injuries are a concern for all pitchers, and while they haven’t been a major concern for Norris so far, the fact that he relies so heavily on the use of his slider could leave him more susceptible to injury in the future. He has had the recurring Biceps tendinitis injury the past two seasons, and even though he has been able to remedy these injuries with rest so far he may not be as lucky in the future. By trading now the Astros would no longer have to worry about whether or not the thirty-six percent of sliders he throws each year will cause his arm to fall off.

Current State Of The Team – New owner Jim Crane and CEO George Postolos have not been shy about the fact that the Astros are going through a rebuilding process, and that it could be several years before the team is a contender. Norris will be 27 years old by opening day next season, and by the time the Astros are expected to compete again Norris could be in his 30’s, and nearing the end of being under team control. If his value is at a high then grabbing a few more impact pieces could help speed up the rebuild process.

Endurance – Norris has showed a penchant for cruising through the first half of the game, but then consistently runs into trouble when his pitch count gets above 100. There were several times that he would struggle to pitch into the 7th inning consistently this past season. This could be something that he is able to correct with more experience, but it could also be a sign that Norris tires at the 100 pitch limit, and that is all you are going to get out of him.

Cons

Potential To Improve – Norris is the type of pitcher that trading now could come back to haunt you in the long run. He took a big step forward last season, and if he is able to do the same again while also diversifying his repertoire and becoming a smarter pitcher, then he could put up some very productive seasons.

Cost Controlled – The same thing that would make him desirable to other teams also makes him valuable to the Astros. Solid pitcher’s are hard to come by, and the fact that he has not even hit arbitration yet bodes well for the Astros. They could use a couple of seasons of solid pitching from a lower cost pitcher that could buy them time until they become competitive again.

Experienced Pitcher’s Needed – With the Astros reportedly shopping Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez this offseason the Astros would need experience in their rotation to help anchor the staff. Even though choosing to trade Norris would likely mean that one of Myers or Rodriguez would remain on the team, the current rotation would lack experience. Presumably Myers’ and J.A. Happ would be the only two with a significant amount of time in the majors.

Public Perception – Astros fans have been through a lot the last few years. First of all there’s that pesky AL West realignment deal looming over the fanbase. Plus, a year after seeing franchise icons Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman dealt away up-and-coming stars Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn were traded this past season. Astros fans may not be able to stomach the thought of another promising young player being traded away.

Is Bud’s Trade Value Really That High – This is a tough one for me to figure out. Some of the above reasons listed as cases for trading Bud Norris would also be considered as reasons why other teams would not want to trade for him. Going back to the A’s for a second, Bud Norris had a comparable season to Trevor Cahill, but is also three years older. Below is a look at the stats for the last three seasons of Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Bud Norris.

2011

Trevor Cahill – 4.16 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 6.37 K/9, 3.55 BB/9, 207.2 IP

Gio Gonzalez – 3.12 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 8.78 K/9, 4.05 BB/9, 202 IP

Bud Norris – 3.77 ERA, 4.02 FIP, 8.52 K/9, 3.39 BB/9, 186 IP

2010

Trevor Cahill – 2.97 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 5.4 K/9, 2.88 BB/9, 196.2 IP

Gio Gonzalez – 3.23 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 7.67 K/9, 4.13 BB/9, 200.2 IP

Bud Norris – 4.92 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 9.25 K/9, 4.51 BB/9, 153.2 IP

2009

Trevor Cahill – 4.63 ERA, 5.33 FIP, 4.53 K/9, 3.63 BB/9, 178.2 IP

Gio Gonzalez – 5.75 ERA, 4.47 FIP, 9.94 K/9, 5.11 BB/9, 98.2 IP

Bud Norris – 4.53 ERA, 4.77 FIP, 8.73 K/9, 4.04 BB/9, 55.2 IP

Bud had a comparable 2011 season to the two A’s hurlers, but after that does not have the same track record in terms of both production and innings pitched as the other two.

In conclusion, it will be interesting to see what value the A’s receive if they decide to trade Gio Gonzalez which seems likely. It will also be interesting to see if the package is enough to force the Astros to consider trading Bud Norris this offseason or before the trade deadline. If they choose not to trade Norris then it also may make sense to sign him to a pre-arbitration contract and buy out a year or two of free agency to keep Norris in Houston through his prime years.

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