The MLB trade deadline is still months away but if last year is any indication about GM Jeff Luhnow’s transaction intentions, he’ll be ready to take the right deal at the wrong time. Meaning if an offer on the table is worth investing in, the rebuilding Astros front office won’t waste any time adding youth and/or depth in the ongoing rebuilding process — as opposed to what most teams tend to do and wait until the very last minute on July 31 to sweat out a decision.
Last season saw many names depart the Space City for potential building pieces of the future. Carlos Lee, Wandy Rodriguez, J.A. Happ, Brett Myers and Chris Johnson were among a handful of players to be dealt last season with Wilton Lopez and Jed Lowrie joining them in the off-season.
The rebuilding message was clear for the Astros and there were very few untouchables on their roster that couldn’t be had for potential pieces of the future, or as they call them in baseball — prospects.
Coming into 2013 most of the big league club had been gutted but there were a few names that were still drawing and would continue to draw interest. Notably pitcher Bud Norris and all-star second baseman Jose Altuve. The latter is on his way to a second consecutive all-star game appearance and the rumors are few and far between. The speculation of whether he can be a franchise player is the only reason he is being involved in any trade rumors to begin with and I speak for a large portion of Astros fans, if not all, in believing he can indeed be that franchise player you build around.
After all, How Many Altuve’s are there?
But the Astros opening day starter, Bud Norris, is the team’s big trade piece in 2013. 2011 was Pence-Bourn, 2012 is above, and while 2013 doesn’t offer the quality or quantity of the previous two years, it’s because the lineup cards and bullpen chairs are now filled with products of previous deals and pieces of the future — not the past.
Products of those rebuilding deals like hitters Matt Dominguez, Chris Carter and Robbie Grossman have all shown signs of promise but is it everyday player promise? That’s to be determined and that’s happening now without rush and with patience.
Pitchers Brad Peacock and Brett Oberholtzer have made their MLB debuts but the bigger pieces of the future continue to develop and develop more and find more reasons to develop in the minor leagues.
So as the season progresses and contenders seek out deals with the non-contenders (while the pretenders hang in limbo) like the Astros, 2013’s big prize is Bud Norris. Norris, 28 and making just $3 million in a contract year, is the highest paid Astro and regarded as the most sought after one this year.
Rumors have involved the Texas Rangers, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, Baltimore Orioles and a couple others. But Norris’ role as the Astros’ ace will not be his price tag and if Luhnow feels they can keep Norris past this season, he will not sell low.
Or perhaps sell at all. As of April 22, Luhnow denies Norris’ availability. But April 22 is so, so very far from the July 31st deadline, and if Norris continues to display his elite K/9 ratio that is essentially his “bread and Budder” as well as maintain a respectable ERA, someone will bite.