BALTIMORE — Attempting to make the postseason for a second consecutive year, the Orioles made the boldest move of Wednesday’s exceptionally quiet non-waiver trade deadline, acquiring 28-year-old right-handed pitcher Bud Norris from the Houston Astros for outfielder L.J. Hoes and minor league lefty Josh Hader.
The Orioles also gave up their competitive lottery draft pick for next year — roughly 35th overall — and gained an extra international bonus slot (91st overall, worth slightly over $200,000) from Houston.
Essentially, what the Orioles did was further strengthen their pitching staff for the stretch run. Norris becomes the third pitcher to join the Orioles via trades this month; executive vice president Dan Duquette also acquired starter Scott Feldman from the Chicago Cubs on July 2 and reliever Francisco Rodriguez from the Milwaukee Brewers on July 23. The additions should make the team more formidable in the pennant race.
“The proof will be in the pudding, right?” Duquette said.
Norris, an Astros sixth-round pick out of Cal Poly in 2006, is far from a household name, but he’s been steady — allowing three runs or fewer in six innings or more in 13 of his 21 starts in 2013 — and was one of the plums of a weak trade market. He’ll make his Orioles debut Thursday night against his former team.
“The trade is exciting. My name’s been swirling for a while now so I’ve been prepared for it,” said Norris, who only had to walk from the opposing clubhouse at Camden Yards to join his new teammates on the home side. “This team has a great young club. They know how to contend. They had a great year last year. And I just want to be any piece of the puzzle I can to help this team keep pushing ourselves to the World Series.”
Norris, who is 6-9 with a 3.93 ERA in 2013, was intriguing because, unlike other available trade targets, he is not a pending free agent. He made $3 million in this his first arbitration year, and he has two more seasons of team control before he can test the market. The rebuilding Astros didn’t have to move him, but they did so to continue to get younger and cheaper.
“The added benefit is that he can also be with our team next year and the year after, which I think is an important component of our considerations to make the trade,” Duquette said. “The acquisition cost was increased because of that. It isn’t just a 10-start trial.”
Norris will slide into the rotation spot vacated by Jason Hammel, who was placed on the disabled list Wednesday with a flexor mass strain in his right forearm.
“I’m excited to learn from some of the older guys on this team, because this game is never figured out. There’s no exact science to baseball,” said Norris, who is 36-46 with a 4.33 ERA in 119 career games (118 starts) over parts of five big league seasons.
“You’re always living and learning and taking tidbits here and there, so from one clubhouse to the next it’s going to be a change and a shock. But I’m going to bring my positive energy to the clubhouse and play hard.”
Showalter said he didn’t know too much about Norris besides what he saw June 6 in Houston when the right-hander allowed nine hits, one walk and three earned runs in seven innings against the Orioles — the only time Norris had faced them in his career.
“He’s competitive, strike-thrower. He has a nice approach,” Showalter said. “Got a pretty good look at him. I remember saying to myself at the time that this guy might be available at the deadline, to kind of bear down. You’re trying to manage a game; you’re also trying to scout a little bit. Who knows?”
The acquisition of Norris came with a significant price: Two local products with high upsides.
Hoes, 23, was the organization’s Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year in 2012 and was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday after hitting .304 with a .406 on-base percentage this season for the Tides. The Mitchellville (Prince George’s County) resident was hitless in four at-bats in three games as an Oriole between this season and last September.
“My mind’s just racing. I kind of got my dream come true the other day, getting to start for the hometown team. Now, getting traded and going to the opposite dugout and locker room, I’m going to be able to make another start (Wednesday) and play against the Orioles,” Hoes said. “I never saw it coming, but it’s part of the game, it’s part of life. So I’ve just got to keep it moving.”
Showalter had glowing praise for Hoes, the organization’s third-round pick in 2008, who was rated by Baseball America as the Orioles’ sixth-best prospect entering the season.
“It’s a great move for L.J.,” Showalter said. “If he’s as good a player as he is a person, they got a gem.”
Hader, a 19-year-old lefty from Millersville, Md., also was shocked after hearing the news as he came off the field before Low-A Delmarva’s game in West Virginia.
“It’s pretty crazy. I wasn’t expecting it, but it happened,” said Hader, who was 3-6 with a 2.65 ERA in 17 starts this season for the Shorebirds. “I mean, it’s kind of (disappointing) not being around home anymore, everything is so close. But this is a business and it happens. It’s a pretty exciting journey I am on now.”
Hader, who was selected in the 19th round in 2012 out of Old Mill High School and was soaring up the organization’s depth charts, said he was trying to get his head around the move Wednesday afternoon.
“I don’t really know what to think about it,” he said. “I’m sure it will sink in when I am heading to wherever I’m headed.”
The Orioles had been interested in trading for Norris for weeks, but the consensus was that the Astros’ asking price was too high. With minutes to go before Wednesday’s 4 p.m. deadline, Duquette found a match.
“You never want to give up young players in a deal, but the urgency is to have the team competitive and continue towards the playoffs,” Duquette said. “So we valued highly the two local kids we gave in the trade, and it was very difficult to do that. But in light of where the team is what we’re trying to accomplish, we thought we would take a run at it.”
The Orioles were also attempting to add a veteran right-handed batter who could serve as designated hitter, but they couldn’t agree to a deal with the few teams who were selling hitters. They could look to do that in August, so long as a player first clears waivers before being traded.
“We looked at several players in the market that could help us as hitters, but again, there’s a lot of teams that are still in the race and wherever we went for the hitters we thought could help us, there were four or five other teams that were there as well,” Duquette said. “We got a couple of starters to help us. We bolstered our bullpen and hopefully they’ll do the job we brought them here to do.”