Thursday, November 15, 2012

Might the Astros trade Bud or Harrell?

Ken Rosenthal wonders aloud this morning if the Royals are in the mood to pull a blockbuster deal, much like the Blue Jays and MarLOLins.

But many Royals fans are eager to see the team use its wealth of prospects to acquire quality veterans, just as many Jays fans wanted Anthopoulos to do the same before he made his monster deal. 

Towards the end of the piece, Rosenthal mentions that the Astros could be looking to move someone like Bud Norris or Lucas Harrell - which wouldn't exactly qualify as a "blockbuster" deal, but would certainly make some waves here in Houston.

Questioning whether Luhnow would be willing to move either of them is useless - of course he would, provided the return was right. That said, Luhnow has indicated that they would likely need eight or nine starting pitchers to get through the season. Moving either of them would cut into that total (unless, of course, a starting pitcher is brought back from the Royals).

Luhnow and Moore also have a history together - even in the last 12 months, when the Astros traded Humberto Quintero and Jason Bourgeois to Kansas City last March.

Both would be intriguing possibilities for trades. I thought Norris had turned a corner in 2011, his third season in the Majors, with his 3.77 ERA / 1.33 WHIP, and 176Ks in 186IP. But he regressed in 2012, allowing a 4.65 ERA / 1.37 WHIP (still just a few ticks above his "breakout" 2011). Or did he? Norris significantly outperformed in 4.02 FIP in 2011, while his ERA severely underperformed in 2012, with a 4.23 FIP. He's not going to get a lot of decisions (meaning, "Wins," of course), because he doesn't pitch all that deep into games, and the Astros just aren't all that good. So what Luhnow is trading is a pitcher who has a career 3.97 xFIP and will somewhat-consistently post 1.5 and 2.0 WAR. But he strikes out a decent number of guys, too - with a career 8.83 K/9.

Norris is arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2013, but won't be a free agent until 2016. You could probably pencil him in for around a $2m salary for 2013 - which, depending on Lowrie's arbitration number, could make him the highest-paid Astro next season.

Trading Lucas Harrell would be the ultimate buy-low/sell-high move for the Astros. Picked up (by Ed Wade, it should be noted) as a waiver claim in 2011, Harrell was the pitching surprise (good pitching surprise, anyway) of 2012 - a .500 pitcher on a miserable team. In his "rookie" season, Harrell threw 193.2IP, with a 3.76 ERA / 1.36 WHIP. He's a contact pitcher who performed almost exactly as his FIP indicated - a 3.75 FIP and 3.89 xFIP.

I have no idea what the Royals would be willing to give up to get Harrell or Norris - but "blockbuster" doesn't exactly come to mind.

(Please note: this was written before I saw SteveInLC's tweet on this very topic).