Astros land two top prospects from O's for Norris
Hoes, Hader and Competitive Draft pick go to Houston for veteran righty
BALTIMORE -- After spending most of the day holed up in his hotel room that overlooks Baltimore's inner harbor area on Wednesday afternoon, right-handed pitcher Bud Norris finally got the call he was waiting to hear.
Norris, the Astros' Opening Day starter and one of the few remaining players from the Astros' previous regime, was dealt to the Orioles in exchange for outfielder L.J. Hoes, Minor League left-hander Josh Hader and a 2014 competitive-balance pick.
Norris took time to hug teammates and friends in the Astros' clubhouse at Oriole Park at Camden Yards before making his way to the Orioles, for whom he will make his first start in Thursday's series finale against the Astros.
Prospects acquired by Astros from Orioles
- L.J. Hoes, OF: Hoes was a second baseman when the Orioles drafted him in the third round in 2008 out of St. John's High School in Washington. He has since moved to the outfield, where his athleticism allows him to capably play all three positions. Offensively, Hoes was one of the best pure hitters in the Orioles' system. He has an excellent approach at the plate and makes consistent contact with an easy line-drive stroke. Hoes doesn't have much power now, but scouts still believe there is untapped power in his wiry frame. He is Major League ready and made brief appearances in Baltimore in both of the past two years. Hoes should have greater opportunities in Houston, where he will likely get a chance to play every day.
- Josh Hader, LHP: Hader was an unheralded prospect before the 2012 Draft, and the Orioles were able to nab him in the 19th round. Shortly after the Draft, he impressed GM Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter during a Maryland All-Star Game at Camden Yards. The Orioles signed Hader, and he has continued to impress talent evaluators as a professional. Hader throws his fastball in the low 90s and mixes it with a curveball and changeup. His secondary pitches are still developing, but both have the potential to become at least Major League-average offerings. Hader throws from a low three-quarters delivery, which adds deception to his pitches. Because of the delivery and his slender frame, Hader is often compared to Chris Sale. He doesn't have Sale's ceiling, but Hader has the potential to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
-- Teddy Cahill
"I'm excited for the opportunity," Norris said. "I'm very thankful for Houston and the organization for everything they've done for me and given to me. You get drafted by them and come through the Minor League system and play here for four years. Houston's been my home for a long time. It will be hard to leave a lot of it behind me, but as I look forward, I'm excited to play in Baltimore. They've got a great city and a great, young team. They play together and play very hard. I'm excited to go to postseason and make a run at something."
Norris, 28, was 6-9 with a 3.93 ERA in 21 starts for the Astros, but was scratched from his scheduled start Tuesday in Baltimore, only adding to speculation a trade was in the works. At a $3 million annual salary, Norris was the Astros' highest-paid player and is under club control for two more years beyond 2013.
Hoes, who switched clubhouses and lineups prior to Wednesday's game, was recalled by the Orioles on Sunday after hitting .304 with 25 doubles, 40 RBIs and a .406 on-base percentage in 99 games for Triple-A Norfolk. Astros manager Bo Porter put him right into the lineup, hitting second and playing right field.
"He says he's throwing me into the fire and to just be ready," Hoes said. "He said, 'We have a great opportunity and a great group of guys and a great young team, and we're trying to rebuild for the future, and we're thinking you can be a key piece for us.'"
Hoes ranked third in the International League in on-base percentage and sixth in walks (58) and was ranked by MLB.com as the Orioles' No. 7 prospect. He was originally a third-round pick by Baltimore in the June 2008 Draft.
"I have the advantage of having been a scouting director and scouted lots of these players when they were in high school," Luhnow said. "L.J. Hoes is a guy I've always liked. He's athletic, played second base for a while, but plays all three outfield positions now.
"He's a really good baserunner, good arm and capable defensively. The thing we like about him the most is that he hits and knows what pitches to go after, with a high batting average and on-base percentage -- both things that we value and look for. He'll be able to help our club a lot offensively at this level, immediately."
Hader, 19, owns a 2.65 ERA in 17 games for Class A Delmarva this season. The 6-foot-3 lefty has allowed just a .215 opponents' batting average and has 79 strikeouts in 85 innings pitched. Hader was ranked by MLB.com as the No. 5 prospect in Baltimore's system and was originally a 19th-round selection last year.
Luhnow said six teams were in competition for Norris, with three pushing harder at the end. MLB.com was the first to report Tuesday the Orioles had a lot of interest in Norris.
"There was some competition for Bud, that's why it took us until the very end," he said. "We wanted to make sure we got the best possible deal. I feel like based on all the options presented to us and how we worked them, we maximized our return. We felt we needed to do that because we were giving up something very valuable. Bud will do very well in Baltimore."
Norris, the longest-tenured member of the team, had seen more than 12 trades in the last few years, with many teammates leaving Houston for greener pastures. The list includes Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence, Lance Berkman, Michael Bourn, Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Chris Johnson, J.A. Happ and Brandon Lyon.
"I really wanted to get an opportunity play in the postseason," Norris said. "You play in the big leagues to go out there to win, to be the best you can be. It's been a tough stretch the last four years in Houston and I've seen a lot of people get traded. I've prepared for it and I'm really excited for the opportunity to pitch in Baltimore."
The trade punches a huge hole in the Astros' rotation, but they have some arms coming in the Minor Leagues. Jarred Cosart, one of their top pitching prospects, made his debut earlier this month and more young arms could follow. Brad Peacock and Asher Wojciechowski could be up from Triple-A soon.
With Norris off the books, the Astros' highest-paid player is veteran left-hander Erik Bedard, who's making $1.15 million. The only other player making more than $1 million is relief pitcher Wesley Wright at $1.025 million, with the team payroll dropping to around $13 million.
The trades are a clear indication Luhnow remains committed to the team's future of rebuilding through player development and the Draft.
"Days like today are exciting and also important for any baseball organization, especially for the Houston Astros," he said
The Astros traded closer Jose Veras to the Tigers on Monday in chance for outfield prospect Danry Vasquez and a player to be named later. Vasquez was the No. 4-ranked prospect in the Tigers system and was sent to Class A Quad Cities.