Just Shuffle and Deal

Will Bud Norris be on a different team at the trade deadline? Photo Courtesy: Rick Leal
Will Bud Norris be on a different team at the trade deadline? Photo Courtesy: Rick Leal

By Will Martin

If there has been any team in Major League Baseball unafraid and uninhibited to get out of heavy debt in exchange for blue chip stock the last three years…can you say Houston Astros?

Did we not witness a fire sale of talent Brandon Lyon, Carlos Lee, Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, and Chris Johnson in 2012?

Yes, Jeffrey Luhnow stocked up on the blue chip minor league talent! Impressive, huh?

Back that Trade Deadline train to 2011. Lo and behold what did we see? Bye-Bye to up-and-comer Micheal Bourn and Arlington fan favorite Hunter Pence were sent elsewhere with an eye on the future.

I didn’t like the moves but I understood the reasons why. The Florida Marlins of 1997, 2003, and 2012 taught me the meaning of gutting a team after success or utter failure.

To be fair we were privy to more of the same in 2010 in Houston when two players got the heave-ho and even had stop-offs in Arlington for a spell. Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt.

With Bo Porter, Jeff Luhnow, and the Astros now nearing the time of the year-their first in the AL-to decide whether a mass amount of call-ups see play time or do you stick with the players who have been grinding it out all year?

As Sunday night was turning into early Monday morning it was being reported that Astros closer Jose Veras was about to get dealt to the Detroit Tigers. With a salary of 1.85 million the Tigers get a steal of a deal and Veras goes from Hell to Heaven in the same time zone! In exchange the Astros receive 19 year old outfielder Danny Vasquez and a player to be named later.

Outside of Carlos Pena, only one other face of the Astros franchise will probably get sent elsewhere to a contending team despite being money at home and competitive in victory or defeat. A 6-9 record despite an ERA of 3.93 in over 20 starts, Bud Norris would and should make a great number 2 or 3 on another ball club.

Taken another step if words mean things does this sound like a player who fits in for the long haul plans of rebuilding in Houston? Speaking about his time here and about the fans is Bud himself.

“They’ve been great all along,”said Norris. “I’ve played here four years, and they’ve always had my back. I really, really appreciate it. When you get that support from the people in the city, it’s real exciting. I thank them for everything, whatever my future holds for me.”

I’ve heard rumors of Bud Norris coming to the Rangers for minor league talent. Otherwise my guess is he might make the trek north to Cleveland and reunite with Michael Bourn or return to the National League as a Cardinal. We’ll know more at 3 pm CST Wednesday July 31st.

Based on how low the current Astros payroll is, does Jeffrey Luhnow view the trading deadline as a positive or a negative for stockpiling future talent? Does dealing at the deadline ever get boring?

“There’s quite a bit of interest in several of our players,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “A lot of teams are in it. We’re getting phone calls from a lot of different teams, and we’re fielding them and having conversations. I can’t handicap if we’re looking as if we’re going to get a deal. But I’ll be happy either way.”

You get the feeling Jeffrey Luhnow would be a success at that card game that features Hi-Lo Split?

One more name that might possibly get put on the trading block is Lucas Harrell, maybe an Erik Bedard but for the moment if the Astros let go of anyone from a financial standpoint it’s going to be Bud Norris. His last start was on July 24th. If it was his last as an Astro Bud went a solid six and a third innings, 7 strikeouts, 3 runs on 4 hits.

One night prior an Astros game that will be remembered as the best game of the 2013 season. Trailing 4-2 to the first place Oakland Athletics and facing Grant Balfour. A reliever who had converted 44 consecutive saves since 4/29/12. For only the second time in 60 games did the Astros come from behind in a 5-4 victory over Oakland. Houston’s first win in 11 tries against the first place opponent. That was one victory the Astros would gladly take.

Grant Balfour had a different take.

“I feel like the whole inning could have been totally different,” Balfour said. “I put myself in that situation. I knock down that [Maxwell] ball, I should field it and throw him out. It gets ruled a hit, and then the next thing you know I’m [up], 0-2, on the next guy and couldn’t put him away. I kept bouncing my slider. It wasn’t what I wanted it to be tonight. Fastball up and away, and he hits it out. That’s it. That’s the blown save right there.”

Deadline talk aside two ballplayers Astros fans can get excited about in the not too distsnt future: Jarred Cosart and Jonathon Villar. Two straight starts where Cosart made it into the 7th inning with good stuff and great location. Bo Porter what’s your take?

“There was never a moment in the game when you looked out on the mound and said, ‘OK, I think he’s losing control of the game,'” he said. “He looked like he was in control of the game the entire time, and that’s why I stayed with him as long as I stayed with him.”

Jarred Cosart is also a Houston prodigy. Did having family and friends in the stands your first two starts help you keep your focus?

“My stuff wasn’t as good for me today early in the game,” he said. “I was kind of out of sync and couldn’t feel any part of my body in the first inning. There was a lot of pressure, no matter what anyone says, pitching in front of 30-something thousand. I feel like I know half of them. I had a big section here tonight and a lot of support, and it’s always huge.”

Jarred Cosart is a name of the future for the Houston Astros. Sadly, coming into and out of the All-Star Break has been painful to watch for Bo Porter and Jeff Luhnow. July has been a miserable 5-17 month after three straight months of progression in the wins. Seven of those games of the 1 run variety with Houston on the 1-6 side of that equation.

The current record sits at 35-69 or a little better than .333 baseball. If the Astros were to play .500 ball the rest of the way a 64-98 record would mean a nine game improvement over 2013. Being forever the optimist here’s hoping Houston tops 70 wins-4 short of my preseason prediction-and the franchise can look ahead to 2014 and beyond.

If baseball were the child and the parent were the fan suffice to say the people of Houston may need a little time to get past the colicky moments, and the ill-timed burp or over soiled seat of pants.

By 2015 the parent will be a proud onlooker as the children reach the next level and graduate into the category of winning-adulthood-and remembering those early life lessons. Indeed, painful to watch but worth the investment if you believe in long term envisioning.

Here’s to August and September for all you Astros fans. Thankfully, the Texans and Rockets are nearby for support and incentive as you ante up…and await the deal and the flop.