Today, I sit in a beach house on a family vacation, trolling for trade deadline news on my cell phone via a spotty connection. During this, I tripped over an article by Call to the Pen titled, "Teams Should Steer Clear of Bud Norris."
I rolled my eyes at the headline because here's what I expected to read:
- Bud Norris is a 5th starter to everybody else, but the Astros are dumb enough to think he's an ace, and so the price will be exorbitantly high.
- Bud Norris stinks...after all, one metric or other shows that he's really bad, but most people don't know it because they don't read Fangraphs.
- Bud Norris' only value is because he's young and cheap, just like the Astros in general. Other than that, he's cannon fodder for the league's best hitters.
Go read the article. It pretty much says exactly that. So here's my rebuttal, since the article clearly was written from somebody's original point of view, and then supplemented with "facts" that support the argument.
Here's the deal: By the time I go live with my post on The Crawfish Boxes, Bud may already be a member of some other club. But this Call to the Pen article is so cliche of everything else we Astros fans have had to tolerate this season from bloggers of other clubs, I could not let it pass. So I will rebut with bullet points of my own.
- The argument that Norris is a 4th or 5th starter on most teams is bunk. He's 28 years old, and is thus in the prime of his career. He's having the best season of his career, as he's lowered his HR rate, Walk rate, ERA, and FIP well below his career numbers, all while sporting a BABIP that is quite a bit higher than his career numbers. So - he's been good AND unlucky.
- Matt Garza was widely considered the prize of the trade deadline. But is he really that much better than Norris? He sports a 3.77 career ERA, his FIP numbers for the season are right around Norris, but perhaps most importantly, he's exorbitantly more expensive, just returned from major injury, and is a free agent after the 2013 season. And the Cubs received four prospects, a few of whom appear on the top of their farm system's talent rankings. As the author of the article above points out, Norris' age, health, and contract are some of his biggest selling points. So why shouldn't he be worth the kind of return that Garza fetched? At least!
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has no recorded history of asking unrealistic returns for his starters. He's a pretty hoopy frood - he knows that just because Norris is the Astros' best starter, that doesn't make him a traditional 'ace'. Most likely, when dealing with the Orioles, the names Bundy, Gausmann, and Machado never came up unless other players (Carter? Altuve) were involved. The trades Luhnow has made to date have all had reasonable returns. Take, for example, the Jose Veras trade to the Tigers this week. He was the Astros' closer, but the players returned for him amounted to a prospect who barely cracks the Astros' Top 20 and an unnamed lottery ticket whose identity will probably be determined by Veras' performance in the 7th or 8th inning in Detroit.
It's a shame that writers can't recognize that the Astros' collective record has absolutely nothing to do with the brains of their front office and with the performance of individual players separate from their teammates. The article I linked to above is nothing more than someone using selective points to prop up an opinion that really does not reflect reality. Unfortunately, articles such as this will cause outrage if a readers' team does happen to acquire Norris, because the only casually-informed reader will suppose that, because it's written on the internet by somebody who does 'research', it must be true. Thus, rather than being seen as a guy who can (and will) contribute to a contending team in a positive way, he will be seen by many fans as an anchor holding them back, and will vociferously lambaste the front office who traded sure-thing, future hall-of-fame minor leaguers for such a scrub.
Don't believe everything you read, baseball fans. Norris has been one of the most reliable and consistent starters in the American League this year. Yes, he's cheap. Yes, he's young. And yes, he has been a paragon of health. Whichever team lands him should be happy, even after paying the price that Luhnow knows that Norris is worth.