Recent reports indicate that the Red Sox are less interested in renting a starting pitcher like Matt Garza or Ervin Santana than they are in acquiring a pitcher who can help them long term. Keeping this in mind, MLB Trade Rumors reports that the Red Sox have called the Houston Astros about the availability of starting pitcher Bud Norris. While Norris’s numbers lack the luster of a Garza or Santana type, each of whom are having quality seasons, Norris has been solid for the last several years and is under team control until after the 2015 season.
Norris has posted the lowest ERA of his career in 2013, with a 3.63 mark; however, there are concerns about his performance this season. His strikeout rate has fallen two full strikeouts per nine innings from his career rate down to 6.4 per nine innings. This is concerning, but would be more so if Norris was not also posting the lowest walk rate of his career at 2.8 per nine innings compared to his already good career rate of 3.6 per nine.
Strikeouts and walks aside, there are plenty of reasons why netting Norris would be a good move for the Red Sox. Norris throws four serviceable pitches and mixing in his low 90’s fastball with his excellent control gives him enough to work with. Norris has been the Astros’ ace the past three years, and would not be that type of pitcher on the Red Sox (or any other baseball team), but he could be a decent back-of-the-rotation option for the next several years.
Norris’s main value comes with the fact that he has two more years of team control after 2013. This may even make him more expensive than Garza or Santana, both of whose contract year is this year. However, the Red Sox have enough trade chips in the minors that they could afford to part with two or three solid B or B- prospects.
My support of this trade, however, hinges on Clay Buchholz. The team obviously knows more than us fans, so if they feel it will be a while before he is back, then it is more likely that they will pull the trigger on a trade for a starting pitcher. If Buchholz will be back soon, on the other hand, then they would be stuck with a six-man rotation for the rest of the year with nobody an obvious candidate to be removed. Personally, I would be fine with letting Brandon Workman, Rubby de la Rosa, and Drake Britton make some major league starts before parting with any prospects for a marginal improvement. However, the Red Sox know Buchholz’s situation best and Norris would be the pitcher I would be most satisfied to acquire.