June 10, 2013
Nick Cafardo’s latest column features this interesting tidbit:
[quote_simple]”Bud Norris, RHP, Astros — Quickly moving into the No. 1 spot of pitchers who might be moved now that the draft is over and GMs can concentrate on such things. Norris is 5-5 with a 3.43 ERA on a lousy team. He’s a competitive guy who hates playing for a loser. One concern among talent evaluators is coming out of a noncompetitive situation into a competitive one. The Pirates, who were scouting the periphery of the pitching market, would now have to be interested in a guy who pitched in their division. Another former Astro, Wandy Rodriguez, has gone to the disabled list for the Pirates.”[/quote_simple]
For one, Cafardo doesn’t quite have his facts straight on Wandy Rodriguez – he’s not on the DL yet, although it is an option.
But more importantly, he’s linking the Pirates to 28-year-old right-hander Bud Norris.
Norris is a familiar name, as he’s pitched 10 times against the Bucs in his career. Since making his MLB debut in July of 2009, he’s posted a 4.31 ERA and 8.5 K/9. His full stats to date:
His strikeout rates are a bit down this year (6.0 K/9, 1.89 K/BB) but he’s still been relatively effective for the 22-42 Astros.
He’s making $3 million this season, and his overall contract status is pretty intriguing. He won’t hit free agency until after the 2015 season, so there are a few years of control. Since Norris will be over 30 years old by the time he’s a free agent, the Astros – who are a few years away from contending – likely don’t see him as a huge part of their future plans.
Norris’ repertoire, via Brooks Baseball: “In 2013, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (93mph) and Slider (85mph), also mixing in a Change (86mph) and Sinker (93mph).” The ‘relied primarily’ is an interesting piece of that statement – in early May, Jayson Stark reported that one scout said Norris was “pretty much a two-pitch guy.” Also, Stark added that “quite a few teams think he profiles more as a bullpen weapon on a contender.”
A lot could change, but the Pirates have a pretty set rotation – assuming A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, and Francisco Liriano stay healthy/Jeff Locke keeps up the good work/Gerrit Cole holds his own and remains in the majors. Don’t forget Charlie Morton and James McDonald are on rehab assignments and could potentially fill in if necessary. Jeanmar Gomez – also injured – wasn’t bad in the rotation either. That gives the Bucs a plethora of options already, without even considering a trade for Norris or another starter.
Going back to the idea of using Norris as a reliever – it wouldn’t be a terrible idea. If he truly is heavily reliant on just two pitches, he could be more useful in the bullpen than the rotation. Flash back to Brad Lincoln, who was traded at the deadline in 2012. He relied on his fastball (60%) and curveball (32%) way more than his sinker (4%) and splitter (4%) – we highlighted this on June 13, 2012: “Two pitches not enough for Lincoln.” Ultimately, Lincoln was way more successful as a reliever than a starter. Facing just a few batters out of the bullpen can be done with two pitch types, but it’s not as effective to keep showing the same pitches to hitters for 5+ innings.
If the Pirates were to acquire Norris, they could stick him in the bullpen and create a solid righty trio along with Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon. Plus, they could move him back to the rotation in 2014 if there are any holes (Burnett & Rodriguez hit free agency, etc.)
We wouldn’t expect any big trades until the trade deadline approaches. Plenty could happen between now and then, and the Pirates may need some pitching help. If so, keep Bud Norris in mind.
Thoughts on acquiring Norris? Let us know.
UPDATE (7/18/13): According to Jeff Passan, the Pirates are one of several teams interested in Norris.