Tomorrow, Ray Kuhn will have all the reasons why not to trade Bud Norris, but for now, this is why I believe the Astros SHOULD trade Bud Norris.
During the 2012 offseason all I heard about was how Bud Norris is the highest paid player on the Astros this season. I heard how it’s pathetic that the Astros won’t spend money on free agents. I heard how it’s pathetic that Bud Norris is the so called “ace” of the Astros. I heard many dumb things by ignorant baseball fans, and all I could tell them was to hush. This team is clearly not competing for 2013, and I was ok with this. I didn’t care who the ace of the staff was, or who would bat cleanup, all I cared about was how can the Astros better themselves for the future. I wanted many of the Astros youngsters to improve and they have. Jason Castro and Matt Dominguez have been bright spots this year, and the minor leaguers have been great. However, the Astros could still use as much help as possible for the upcoming years, and that’s why I believe the Astros should trade Bud Norris for the best available package come July 31st.
This season, Norris has a 5-6 record with a 3.47 ERA and 1.42 WHIP while striking out 57 and walking 28. For his career, Norris owns a 4.30 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. He’s having the best season of his career up to date, but his numbers look different than those in his past. Norris has allowed almost 1 extra hit per 9 innings (9.8 this year, 8.9 career) which has put his BAA at .280 this season (career .258). Norris’ strikeout rate is also down to just 6.2 strikeouts per 9 innings, down 2.3 strikeouts from his career K/9. He has also allowed just 6 home runs in his 83 innings this year (1 HR every 13.8 IP), as opposed to allowing one HR every 8 innings throughout his career.
Norris has also continued to struggle on the road, while pitching really well at home. For his career, Norris in 56 starts (341 IP) at home holds a 3.33 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and .239 BAA. On the road in 56 games (55 starts, 305.2 IP), Norris holds a 5.39 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, .279 BAA.
Looking for Norris’ contract information? It’s simple. This year he makes $3 million (highest player blah blah blah blah blah). For the 2014 season and 2015 season Norris is arbitration eligible. In 2016 Norris becomes a free agent.
Now that we have all the numbers, let me tell you why the Astros SHOULD trade Bud Norris.
The Astros are sitting at 23-44 and are not going to make the playoffs this year. They are a young team with many young pieces sprinkled in with veterans. They go out and compete every night, but often fall short. Bud Norris doesn’t add too much in the grand scheme of things. Norris is already 28, and the Astros have several other pitchers that should be in the rotation next year.
Realistically it’s possible to see Norris (and Lucas Harrell) out of the rotation next year, and instead see a rotation consisting of Mark Appel, Jordan Lyles, Jarred Cosart, Asher Wojciechowski, and Brad Peacock. Other starting pitcher options include Michael Foltynewicz, John Ely, Dallas Keuchel, Alex White, and Brett Oberholtzer. There are just too many future options that could be ready as quickly as next year, and Norris, as a 29 year old, doesn’t belong in that rotation.
Norris is the “ace” of the team, but his perceived value is probably greater than his actual value. To say Norris has struggled on the road is an understatement, and I’m sure teams have looked into that as well. Norris is an average pitcher, and can probably be a decent #3 or good #4 on a playoff contending team. Some people still believe Norris fits better in a late-inning role in the bullpen. Though his K-rate is down this year, Norris still has the stuff to be able to flourish late in games.
As far as the potential pay raise Norris is due, it seems pretty irrelevant. The Astros have plenty of money to spend even if they haven’t shown it yet. Jeff Luhnow has said that he’s willing to spend money when the time is right, and if Luhnow believes Norris belongs in the rotation in the future, then he will get a pay raise. If not, Norris will be dealt elsewhere.
Earlier in the post, I mentioned Norris’ 2013 season numbers and his career numbers, and there were a few stats that had some pretty big differences. Besides the lowered K rate, Norris’ HR allowed rate is also a lot lower, and it’s certainly possible this pace won’t continue. Norris’ HR/FB ratio is 6.1% whereas his career numbers are 10.9%. This is where things get interesting. When going through some advanced stats (which I admit I am not well versed in) the “scariest” stat going against Norris is xFIP. Whereas Norris’ FIP (3.68) is considered above average (for an explanation on FIP click here), his xFIP (4.43) is considered poor (for an explanation on xFIP click here). The difference is due to Norris’ HR rate this year which has been abnormally low. Normalizing that rate would see an increase in Norris’ ERA, thus lowering his value (one would think).
Norris’ numbers are good this year, but advanced stats show it’s certainly possible he can regress. His ground ball rate is slightly up from his career averages, and his flyball rate is a bit lower, but not that much of a difference (a little bit more than 1% both ways). Norris has used his fastball slightly less this year as he has used his cutter and change up more. These differences may explain his change in numbers, but I’m not sold. There is nothing from these stats that make me think Norris can continue with his lowered ERA.
If the numbers don’t do it for you then the logic should. The Astros aren’t competing this year, will likely only be a 70′ish win team next year, and by 2015 is when we may see some good ball. By 2015, Norris will already be a pretty highly paid pitcher, and with so many young potential pitchers that could be ready by 2015 (Lance McCullers, Vincent Velasquez, Andrew Thurman, plus several more mentioned earlier), the Astros just have no need for him.
I’m a big fan of Norris, and he’s always been one of my favorite players, but I believe now is the time for the Astros to “sell high” on Norris, and beef up our farm system.
Sound off in the comments section below or you can find me on twitter @YoniPollak