The Minnesota Twins have made some attempts to bolster their starting rotation this offseason, adding Vance Worley via trade with the Philadelphia Phillies last week and signing Kevin Correia to a two-year, $10 million deal earlier this week. But more still needs to be done, and with the price of pitching on the free agent market being as high as it has been general manager Terry Ryan may have to continue pursuing trades.
The Houston Astros are reportedly listening to offers for Bud Norris, and more recent news suggests multiple teams have shown interest in him. The 27-year old has spent his entire major league career with Houston, posting a 28-37 record with a 4.42 ERA in 98 appearances (97 starts) over four seasons.
Norris went 7-13 with a 4.65 ERA in 29 starts (168.1 innings) for the Astros last season, with only a midseason knee issue preventing him from making 30 or more starts for the second straight season. But he did finish the season strongly, allowing three earned runs or less in five of his final seven starts and posting a 2.95 ERA over that span.
The best season of Norris’ career came in 2011, as he went 6-11 with a 3.77 ERA while setting career-highs in innings pitched (186) and starts made (31). His career high win total (nine) came in 2010, as pitching for the lowly Astros has kept him from reaching double-digit wins.
Norris is below the radar in any conversation regarding baseball’s best young pitchers, due in part to the struggles the Astros have had in recent years, but a closer look at his peripheral numbers show a pitcher with upside potential. He has struck out nearly a batter per inning in his four major league seasons (8.8 career K/9), and his ground ball and fly ball ratios have been remarkably consistent over the past two seasons. Control has been a bit of an issue (3.8 career BB/9 rate), but his ability to get strikeouts helps cancel that out and moving out of a hitter-friendly home field like Minute Maid Park could benefit him greatly.
Since Norris is arbitration-eligible for the first time this year, the Astros may simply want to unload him before the cost to keep him has a chance to rise significantly. It’s unclear if the Twins are among the teams reported to have interest in him, and a lot surely depends on what Houston is seeking in a trade for any team that may have interest. All things considered I think Norris is a solid fit for the Twins, with a good chance to buck conventional wisdom and improve upon moving to the American League.