After several days' worth of speculation, as the trade deadline comes down to a wire, the Orioles have finally pulled the trigger on a trade for another starting pitcher. First reported by Ken Rosenthal:
Roch Kubatko of MASN added that the "another piece" would be a left-handed minor league pitcher, and also that the Orioles would be sending their 2014 Competitive Balance Round A draft pick to Houston in the trade. Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reported first that the pitcher is Josh Hader.
Bud Norris and L.J. Hoes will only have to switch clubhouses and uniforms for tonight, since Houston is already in town to play the Orioles.
The O's had been reported to be one of three teams in on trading for Norris, but just earlier today they were reported to be less interested due to the Astros' high asking price. However, as the deadline approached, it seems that Houston blinked, and now Norris is an Oriole.
Norris is a 28-year old right-hander and in his fifth major league season. He's thrown 689.2 innings at the MLB level to the tune of a 4.33 career ERA. This year, in 21 starts, he's pitched 126 innings - exactly six innings per start on average - and has a 3.93 ERA. That is just about league average, and in that sense it will represent a significant improvement over Jason Hammel.
Hoes is a favorite due to his local ties, his minor league on-base skills, and his name lending itself easily to jokes about having hoes in different area codes. Indeed, the Orioles have traded Hoes to a different area code - Hoes on the Stros, no less - and with Houston having just traded Justin Maxwell earlier in the day, there is probably an opportunity for Hoes to play every day in the outfield there.
Hoes was the Orioles' third-round pick in the 2008 draft, and he had batted .302/.391/.400 at Triple-A Norfolk this year.
Hader is another local kid, having been selected in the 19th round of the 2012 draft out of the Orioles' back yard. He is a product of Old Mill High School in Millersville. The lefty is just 19 years old and is performing well in his first full professional season. He's thrown 85 innings in 17 starts for Low-A Delmarva, striking out 79 with 42 walks. That's a higher walk rate than you might like, but he's young and performing well. Still a long way from the majors, it seems the Orioles were willing to cash in on the local kid's potential to bring in Norris in the present.
The benefit of this deal for the Orioles is that it is not a rental, which means that Norris has an additional two years to be worth what was given up for him. Hader was the #5 Orioles prospect and Hoes the #7 prospect on the midseason update to MLB.com's prospect list. Hoes may not be able to keep getting on base against tougher pitching and any number of things could happen on the way to MLB for Hader. Their journeys will continue in the Houston system now, and hopefully they will not make the Orioles regret the trade too much.
Is this a blockbuster trade? Let's be real: Norris is not a blockbuster piece to acquire. However, neither Hader nor Hoes were top pieces to give up, and Norris should be a very real upgrade to one of the biggest areas of weakness for the Orioles. The starting rotation should be stronger with him than it was without him, and for Dan Duquette, that was enough to make the trade.
Norris had originally been scheduled to start on Tuesday, but was scratched in anticipation of a trade. When he will start for the Orioles has not been announced. If it was up to me, he would push back Scott Feldman a day and Hammel would be displaced into the bullpen or the great designated for assignment in the sky.
A final word of caution on the subject of Norris that my friend Tanya Bondurant from Pinstriped Bible shared with me: Norris' 5.91 road ERA this season has included a 6.31 ERA in open-air stadiums. Surely, Duquette considered Norris' performance outside of domes, but it's enough to make an O's fan nervous. The die has been cast and all that's left is to see what happens.