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Is Astros right-hander Bud Norris truly an upgrade for Orioles' rotation?

As today’s 4 p.m. nonwaiver trade deadline approaches and the Orioles still appear interested in acquiring Houston right-hander Bud Norris, the big question is whether the Astros ace truly an upgrade to the O’s rotation -- and at what cost?

On the Astros, he's an ace. But on most teams -- Orioles included -- he's more of a middle-of-the-rotation starter.

Norris is an innings eater, going at least six innings in 13 of his last 16 starts -- 12 of those quality starts -- including seven starts of seven or more innings in that span.

But the right-hander has struggled against left-handed hitters, allowing a .306 batting average against them. That’s compared to a .241 opponents' batting average against right-handed hitters. Ten of the 11 homers Norris has allowed have come against left-handed hitters.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said before Tuesday’s game that he considered a lineup with eight left-handed hitters against Norris before he was scratched.

If the Orioles are going to acquire a pitcher for the stretch run, you’d think they’d want one who can get left-handed hitters out -- especially in the American League East (Twenty-nine of the Orioles’ final 39 games will be against division opponents) -- even though some of the division’s lineups aren’t as dominated with left-handed hitters as they used to be.

And over his last three starts, Norris hasn’t pitched well, with an 8.47 ERA, including back-to-back starts in which he allowed six or more runs on July 9 and 19. Over that span, his season ERA has increased from 3.22 to 3.93.

Norris is only making $3 million this season, so the Orioles would only be taking on about an additional $1 million to add Norris. And he is arbitration-eligible for the next two seasons, so he wouldn’t become a free agent until after the 2015 season.

That’s valuable, especially considering what’s out there in the trade market for pitchers, where teams would have to assume substantial salaries. But that will also likely raise the Astros’ trade demands.

Obviously, Jason Hammel has struggled recently, and even though his last two starts have been ugly, he seems to be making some progress.

And a team like the Astros, who are certainly playing for the future, will likely command multiple prospects in exchange for Norris. As we all know, the Orioles have been very careful when it comes to trading promising pieces of their farm system.

At this point, it seems unlikely. But things can change quickly and the Astros -- who obviously want to move Norris -- can bring their demands down to complete an 11th-hour deal.

What do you think? Is Norris an upgrade?

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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