Dodgers Acquire Bud Norris

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Jun 4, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Bud Norris (20) pitches in the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 4, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Bud Norris (20) pitches in the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Dodgers made a move to keep their rotation afloat, trading for a 31-year-old righty.

When the news about Clayton Kershaw‘s back first came out a few days ago, it seemed like a move was imminent. The Dodgers rotation (on the DL) would be one of the better rotations in baseball, but their major league rotation had three rookies and the underwhelming Scott Kazmir. They didn’t have a starter for Friday, which was supposed to be Kershaw’s start but he’ll be out until after the all star break.

This came out of nowhere while I was waiting to see who the Padres were getting for Fernando Rodney.

Bud Norris made five starts for the Braves in April. He did well in his first start, holding the Nationals to three runs in six innings. In his other four starts, Norris threw a combined 15.2 innings and allowed 19 earned runs. He was demoted to the bullpen, where he threw 18.1 innings and allowed four earned runs in 12 outings. He inherited six runners as a reliever, and only one scored. Norris was bumped back up to the rotation and went at least five innings in five June starts. In those five outings, Norris went seven innings twice and he didn’t allow more than three runs in any of his starts.

FanGraphs is quite smarter than I am, and they looked at Norris’ improvement in his second stint in the rotation. Jeff Sullivan noted that in June, Norris was tied for the fourth-highest pitcher WAR among qualified pitchers. He’s leaned on his cutter and stopped throwing his change-up, and has seen much better results in a very low sample size.

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The timing of this move is perfect, as the Dodgers needed a starter for Friday. Norris last started on Sunday, so he’s lined up to throw Friday on regular rest. Please don’t mistake this for the big improvement in the Dodgers rotation. Norris will start while the rest of the rotation is in shambles, and when pitchers start coming back he will allow the Dodgers to send a young arm back down to watch their innings. Norris has appeared in 60 games in the last two years, 39 of which came in relief, so when the rotation is healthy, Norris could slot in as another bullpen arm. Norris is also a free agent at the end of the year, so while he isn’t the difference-maker many fans want, he will ideally help the Dodgers survive until the all-star break.

Dian Toscano was signed by the Braves in January 2015. Toscano put up solid hitting numbers in Cuba, but has failed to bring that stateside, as he has a .226/.310/.271 slash at AA. Toscano signed a four year deal worth $6 million and he has a buyout in 2019. He’s not on the 40-man.

This is probably too much, but Phillip Pfeiffer and Caleb Dirks head to Atlanta. Pfeiffer was the Dodgers’ third round pick in last years’ draft and had a 2.97 ERA in 30 innings of relief combined between A and High A ball. Caleb Dirks was actually acquired by the Dodgers from Atlanta last year in exchange for international slot money. Dirks was the Dodgers’ 30th ranked prospect on MLB.com and he had a 1.44 ERA in 31.1 innings at AA Tulsa.

Overall, this trade is a huge shrug. It’s a move and if Norris can give the Dodgers a handful of decent starts, it’s worth it.

Klein is a reporter for ABC in Atlanta. Hooray. Norris was quite outspoken last year with the whole “respect the game” stuff. So this feels a lot like the Mat Latos trade. Much like Latos, if Norris wants a shot at a good contract in the offseason, he should be well-behaved and highly motivated. If not, he’s easy enough to get rid of. Hopefully, being in a stable locker room (and out of Atlanta) should help Norris get his act together.

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