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Bud Norris, Ian Kennedy Headline Slow Deadline

Bud Norris Traded to Baltimore Orioles
Bud Norris Traded to Baltimore Orioles

September 26, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Bud Norris (20) walks off the field after pitching in the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Minute Maid Park. Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If you spent your Wednesday afternoon poring over all of the news and rumors of the Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline, then you were surely let down when 4:00 p.m. rolled around. It’s been a seller’s market this month and most buyers didn’t feel compelled to meet the prices for their targets. What resulted was one of the most lackluster trade deadlines in quite some time.

The big deal of the afternoon was the Orioles’ acquisition of Astros starter Bud Norris. Norris’ name had been floated about for the last couple weeks as a likely trade candidate, and several teams were in the market for a starter.

Like the Red Sox were able to do yesterday, Baltimore General Manager Dan Duquette was able to make his team better without giving up any of his organization’s top few prospects, which sounded unlikely until today. He parted with outfielder L.J. Hoes, the Orioles’ sixth-ranked prospect according to Baseball America, and Josh Hader, a 2012 19th round pick and B.A.’s 19th-ranked Baltimore prospect. Houston will also get a compensatory draft pick.

The Orioles needed another pitcher. They’re already sitting in third place in the A.L. East. The first place Rays have the best ERA in baseball over the last month at 2.36. The second place Red Sox have the fifth-best staff in the American League during that same time and they just got better with the addition of Jake Peavy.

The threesome of Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman, and Miguel Gonzalez have been quite good, but the fourth and fifth starters have been a liability. Jason Hammel, the de facto ace of last year’s team, has posted a 7-8 record with a 5.20 ERA in 21 starts. The recently-acquired Scott Feldman has been similarly mediocre in his five starts since joining the team from the Cubs. He’s just 2-2 with a 5.12 ERA.

To keep pace with their division rivals, another arm was probably necessary. Norris was an opening day starter for Houston, but figures to be more of a back-end guy for Baltimore, which will be fine for them. His 3.63 ERA in Houston is a run and-a-half better than either of the pitchers he would replace in the rotation. In the end, the Astros ended up with a couple players they feel will help their rebuilding process and Baltimore has a pitcher who will help them in their stretch run, but also one who’s under team control for two more seasons after this.

The only other notable trade on deadline day was a bit more head-scratching. The Diamondbacks had been shopping starter Ian Kennedy, primarily to free up money to make a run at Jake Peavy. But when Peavy was sent to Boston, the need seemed to be lessened. Yet, Arizona still moved him for players who will offer much less help with their playoff push this year.

Kennedy is going to San Diego for reliever Joe Thatcher and minor leaguer Matt Stites. Stites could be an eventual closer in Arizona, which is a present need, and Thatcher is more of a lefty specialist, albeit one who is enjoying a good season.

The odd thing about this move is that Arizona seemed to have sold more than they bought while the team is still in a pennant race. While they have been overtaken in the N.L. West, they are still just 3.5 games back in the division and 4.5 back of a wild card spot.

Admittedly, Kennedy is having a down year, posting a 3-8 record, a 5.23 ERA and managing just nine quality starts in 21 games, and the team has lost nine of the last 10 games he’s started. His numbers are worse than his career averages across the board, and by a fairly significant margin. He is still just 28-years-old and, as he showed in 2011 when he went 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA and 198 strikeouts, he is much better than his 2013 season.

Tyler Skaggs will be called up from AAA to fill the opening in Arizona’s rotation, but that may not be much of an upgrade over Kennedy. In 38.2 innings with the Diamondbacks, he posted a 5.35 ERA. His minor league numbers haven’t been much better this year, with a 4.30 ERA in 14 games.

For a team with a definite chance at making the playoffs, it seems like they sold low on a good pitcher and didn’t get much in return for this year for it to make sense. It’s possible that GM Kevin Towers will try to make an addition or two in August and wanted to get some money off the books now in preparation for that. Time will tell there.

The only other deals made today are barely worthy of a second look. The Astros also traded outfielder Justin Maxwell to Kansas City in exchange for minor league pitcher Kyle Smith. And the Dodgers added a third-string catcher by acquiring Drew Butera from the Twins for the always exciting player to be named later or cash. Butera will start in the minors and could join Los Angeles when rosters expand in September.

Deadline day would have been much more action-packed had some of the teams in position to make moves actually done so. Among them, the Phillies, who should be in sell mode, took calls on several players, but chose to do nothing. The Pirates, meanwhile, were looking for outfield help, but balked at asking prices. Stay tuned, though. We still have all of August to see if baseball has any more interesting trades left in it this year.

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