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Touching All the Bases

Astros' Leaked Trade Discussions Includes One Doozy Involving the Red Sox

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According to baseball-reference.com, which does not lie, Bud Norris is a 29-year-old righthanded pitcher who stands six feet tall and weighs 220 pounds.

OK, maybe the player weights aren't always accurate; Nomar Garciaparra is still listed at 165 pounds, and if I recall correctly, Rich Garces was listed as a one-foot-on-the-scale 225-pounder for years. But the important numbers offer nothing but the truth, and according to b-r, the truth regarding Bud Norris is this:

He spent five full or partial seasons with the Astros, won 45 games, lost 54, threw 689.2 innings in 119 appearances over that time, with a 4.33 ERA.

His top three most similar players are Bob Milacki, Jerome Williams, and someone named Arnie Portocarrero. John Farrell is sixth on that list.

So I've got to ask: Is there another Bud Norris that I don't know about?

Because according to some fascinating leaked (or is it hacked?) documents that are confirmed to have come from the Houston Astros' "Ground Control" database, they were asking for the moon, the stars, and a rocket ship that would allow them to visit all of their possessions in outer space for their decidedly mediocre Bud Norris last July.

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The notes, written in shorthand and serving as sort of a catch-all log for the Astros' trade talks, cover mid-June 2013 until the July 31 trading deadline last season, as well as discussions from October 2013 until March 2014.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports was the first to confirm that the data is legit:

Astros management must be furious that their private notes have been breached. But for baseball fans, it's a goldmine of genuine trade talk, rather than the usual vaguely sourced rumors.

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The most fascinating stuff surrounds Norris, a pitcher of raw ability and durability whose results didn't necessarily justify the interest in him -- or all that the Astros were asking for him.

Five-tool phenom Gregory Polanco's name came up with the Pirates, though Pittsburgh apparently shot it down in a hurry. They discussed Marcus Stroman with the Blue Jays. The availability of young righthanders Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy was gauged with the Orioles -- the Astros believed Dan Duquette might consider dealing the latter.

And then there was the communication with the Red Sox. Here is how Houston documented Ben Cherington's first offer for Norris:

"7/24/2013"," BOS offered Ryan Lavarnway or Deven Marrero for Norris. We said no."

Lavarnway for Norris made sense for the Red Sox. You can understand why they offered Marrero, but it's a blessing that the Astros weren't interested. The slick-fielding shortstop has blossomed this season at Double-A Portland (.293/.374/.437). And again -- it was only for Bud Norris, a pitcher as nondescript as his name.

Then came a counteroffer -- well, more of a counter-suggestion -- that must have made Cherington do a spit-take:

"7/24/2013"," JL told BC that it would have to be one of [Xander] Boegarts, [Allen] Webster, [Jackie] Bradley, or [Garin] Cecchini to get in the conversation at this point."

Webster, who is all stuff and no guile, might have been worth giving up if the Red Sox felt like Norris could make a difference in a rotation that was without Clay Buchholz. But Bogaerts? That's not a conversation starter. That gets you hung up on.

Five days later, the Astros logged Cherington's response. Surprisingly, it did not include the phrase, "Are you out of your *$&#@& minds?":

"7/29/2013"," BC texted JL and said they couldn't include Boegarts, Cecchini, Webster, or Bradley but thought they had enough depth to still make an appealing package. JL wrote back and asked if they would consider a package around Barnes and Owens."

What, no request for Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart too? You'd think they were taking offers on '79 J.R. Richard or '86 Mike Scott, not '14 Bud Norris.

As it turned out, the Red Sox found their pitcher a day later, sending out Jose Iglesias and bringing Jake Peavy in a three-way deal with the White Sox.

A day after that, Houston made its Norris deal, sending him to the Orioles for outfielder L.J. Hoes, Single-A pitcher Josh Hader, and a draft pick.

No Gausman. No Bundy. Not much, really.

Facetiousness aside, you can't blame them for aiming big. A desperate GM might just say yes one time out of 1,000.

Which brings us to the most fascinating trade chatter in the documents, a discussion in which Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow aimed high -- and the potential trade partner aimed higher.

"11/15/2014"," JL talked to DJ [Marlins general manager Dan Jennings] and said we had interest in [Giancarlo] Stanton. DJ said he doesn't think he'll trade Stanton and the only deal he could think of from us that would work would be [George] Springer and [Carlos] Correa. JL said that would not work. JL posited a deal around [Zach] Cosart and [Delino] DeShields."

I think I've made my government-tracked obsession with appreciation for Stanton fairly clear around here, yes?

But even I can acknowledge that Marlins' request of Springer, who has 15 homers as a rookie and owns skills similar to Stanton's, and Correa, essentially the Astros' version of Bogaerts, was beyond bold and bordering on the insane.

Not that the counter-offer was much better.

As Dave Cameron put it at FanGraphs: "I wonder which side thought the otherís offer was more ridiculous."