After trading shortstop Jed Lowrie on Monday, the Houston Astros still might not be done dealing.
Their next player to go could be right-hander Bud Norris, who currently is the Astros’ highest-salaried player at $3 million.
Norris, who turns 28 on March 2, is available and drawing interest, according to major-league sources. The Astros’ motivation for moving him would be the same as it was for all of their other recent deals — to acquire young talent so that they can better compete in the future.
The trade of Lowrie and right-hander Fernando Rodriguez to the Oakland Athletics for a three-player package that included right-hander Brad Peacock increased the Astros’ rotation depth — and potentially their trade options.
The additions of Peacock and right-handers Philip Humber, John Ely and Alex White give the Astros at least eight candidates for their rotation, including Norris. The team also expects to have a promising group of starters at Triple A.
Norris isn’t the only starter on the trade market — the Kansas City Royals’ Luke Hochevar and Los Angeles Dodgers’ Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano are among the other pitchers available. However, Norris is more affordable than most, and under club control through 2015.
The question is how much Norris would improve simply by joining a better club. Over the past three seasons, he is 27-34 with a 4.41 ERA, averaging 29 starts and 169 1/3 innings. After a strong start to his 2012 season, he regressed to 7-13 with a 4.65 ERA, missing time with a sprained left knee.
The Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals expressed varying levels of interest in Norris at the winter meetings, a source said.
Norris is 8-5 with a 2.74 ERA in 15 career starts against the Cardinals, who announced Tuesday that right-hander Chris Carpenter is unlikely to pitch for them in 2013.
— Ken Rosenthal