In the playoff mix for a second consecutive year, the Baltimore Orioles made the biggest move on a quiet trade-deadline day, acquiring Bud Norris to keep pace with the Boston Red Sox.
Hoping to catch the NL West-leading Dodgers, the Arizona Diamondbacks filled a hole in their bullpen Wednesday by sending struggling 20-game winner Ian Kennedy to San Diego for lefty reliever Joe Thatcher.
Boston put the pressure on Baltimore by picking up 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox less than 24 hours earlier in a three-team trade. The deal was finalized quickly in part because the Detroit Tigers were eager to protect themselves in case shortstop Jhonny Peralta is suspended for his involvement in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drugs scandal.
“The frank reality is that I do not know what is going to happen with Jhonny, but with this move, we now feel well protected if there is a long suspension,” Tigers general manager David Dombrowski said.
With all eyes on the Yankees because of Alex Rodriguez’s likely suspension by Major League Baseball, New York never could work out a deal with the Phillies for corner infielder Michael Young, who is staying – for now – with Philadelphia.
San Francisco also held onto left-hander Javier Lopez and the Los Angeles Angels kept second baseman Howie Kendrick after sending Albert Callaspo to Oakland late Monday.
Other than a few other minor swaps Wednesday, baseball’s executives did much of their work in the weeks leading up to the 4 p.m. EDT nonwaiver trade cutoff.
“In general I just think everybody was dealing with a relative level of frustration knowing that the strength wasn’t there, the bona fide help, per se, across the board was going to be very tough to fulfill their needs,” Giants general manager Brian Sabean said after the deadline passed.
The busy Cubs sent Alfonso Soriano to the Yankees, Matt Garza to Texas, Scott Feldman to Baltimore and Carlos Marmol to the Dodgers. Francisco Rodriguez, Marc Rzepczynski, Alberto Callaspo, Scott Downs and Jesse Crain also switched teams this month.
The NL Central-leading Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals and the struggling World Series champion Giants were among several teams that chose to stand pat Wednesday in a tepid market.
In the midst of a revival that has an entire city brimming with Bucs excitement, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington reluctantly held back from making any deals.
“We talk a lot about, we don’t want to do something stupid,” Huntington said. “We were willing to do something stupid, we just didn’t want to do anything insane.”
Teams can make trades for the rest of the season, but it gets riskier. Players must first pass through waivers, meaning they can be claimed by another club before a deal takes place.
For a player to be eligible for the postseason with his new team, swaps must be completed before Aug. 31.
On Wednesday, Houston also sent outfielder Justin Maxwell to Kansas City and the Dodgers picked up backup catcher Drew Butera from Minnesota and sent him to the minors.
The young Astros, with the worst record in baseball at 35-70, dealt reliever Jose Veras – to Detroit on Monday.
Norris only had to walk down the hall to join his new team with Houston in Baltimore. Outfielder L.J. Hoes, one of two prospects sent to Houston, was initially in the Orioles’ lineup but ended up getting the start for the Astros. Class-A left-hander Josh Hader was the other player in the deal.
A 28-year-old right-hander, Norris helps fortify a rotation that will be without injured Jason Hammel for at least the next two weeks.
In his fifth big league season, Norris is 6-9 with a 3.93 ERA in 21 starts this year. He has a lifetime record of 34-46 and is under team control through 2015.
“I’m excited for the future,” Norris said. “I pitched my way into this situation to be traded and help out a team. This (Baltimore) team is a young club, they know how to contend. They had an amazing year last year. I just want to be any piece of the puzzle I can to help this team keep pushing to the World Series.”
Baltimore began Wednesday five games back of Boston in the AL East and in the second wild-card position.
The Diamondbacks have fallen 3½ games behind the surging Dodgers and needed lefty relief help. Thatcher is 3-1 with a 2.10 ERA in 50 games this season. He has limited left-handed batters to a .215 average.
“It’s exciting to get traded. It’s a big deal. It brings excitement to be in a pennant race,” Thatcher said. “That is all you ask for, is to win. I’m looking forward to getting over there and helping out and doing whatever they need from me.”
The Diamondbacks also got 23-year-old right-hander Matt Stites, who is 2-2 with a 2.08 ERA and 14 saves in 46 games with Double-A San Antonio.
Kennedy, 21-4 two seasons ago, is 3-8 with a 5.23 ERA in 21 starts and hasn’t won a game in two months.
He’s expected to start Sunday at Petco Park against the New York Yankees, the team that took him in the first round of the June 2006 draft.