While the Red Sox kept tabs on the Cubs’ Matt Garza market, his profile was an imperfect fit for what the team wanted and what the team was willing to give up. Garza would have represented nothing more than a two-month (and perhaps postseason) rental who would reach free agency following the 2013 campaign; under the terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, because Garza is switching teams mid-year, he is not eligible for the qualifying offer necessary to receive a compensatory draft pick should he depart in free agency.
In other words, Garza represents the most extreme sort of case of sacrificing long-term talent for short-term gain. Given that the Sox still expect Clay Buchholz back and that their other season-opening members of the rotation (John Lackey, Jon Lester, Felix Doubront, Ryan Dempster) have all shown, at times, the ability to be a solid member and in some instances (Lackey, Lester to start the year, Doubront more recently) have demonstrated the potential to dominate, the team doesn’t feel a sense of desperation to focus on ceiling.
Moreover, the fact that the Sox have a number of near major league-ready starting prospects in the minors or on their big league roster (Brandon Workman, Drake Britton, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa) gives the team some sense that, even as it explores the market for pitching, it’s not in as desperate a condition as was the case in 2011, when the team didn’t have viable options in Triple-A beyond Andrew Miller and Kyle Weiland.
That being the case, the team seems unlikely to be seduced by ceiling in its explorations of the trade market. Nor, according to multiple major league sources, is it likely to part with top prospects for rental starters such as Garza and Ervin Santana.
Instead, the team would be more intrigued by the idea of identifying a pitcher with a solid performance track record who would be available for multiple years of control. According to one major league source, a pitcher like Bud Norris — 6-8 with a 3.63 ERA, 6.4 strikeouts per nine innings, 2.8 walks per nine innings, averaging exactly six innings per start — represents the sort of pitcher who, at least in theory, matches up with what the Sox are seeking. Someone who’s had a first-hand glimpse of the pitcher this year views him as an impactful candidate for trade.
“He’s been really good this year. I think the biggest thing for him has been his consistency,” said Astros catcher Jason Castro at the All-Star Game. “He’s been able to really, for the full first half, pretty much do what he’s wanted. He’s kind of been working on a few different things as far as his pitch selection goes. He’s kind of developed a few more secondary pitches that have been pretty successful for him, and I think he kind of gives hitters a different look, because of the kind of history he had when he first came in. He was mostly a two-pitch guy. It’s been a credit to him to see him evolve and adjust himself based on what the league was seeing from him. I think that’s kind of added to him being successful.
“He could be a very solid part of any organization as they move forward. He’s one of those guys that you’d love to keep,” added Castro. “If we could hold onto him, he’d be an asset for us. We’ll see what happens, but I know that wherever he ends up, he’s going to pitch very well and do the things that have been why he’s been successful this year.”
Norris is making just $3 million this year and has two more years of team control before he is eligible for free agency. So, while he’d require the sacrifice of prospects who represent long-term assets, he’d also afford an acquiring team a stabilizing rotation member for multiple seasons.
According to one source, the Sox have checked in on the Norris market and currently believe the Astros’ asking price is too high, feeling that it’s more in line with a pitcher who has the reputation of a front-of-the-rotation option rather than a back-end one. But, given the depth of the Sox’ system, if Houston’s asking price does come down, then the Sox could become more aggressive in the pursuit of Norris (and other pitchers of a similar ilk — mid- to back-of-the-rotation options who are controllable for multiple years) given the lack of proven depth in the group of prospects mentioned above.
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