Bud Norris: A Possible Misallocation of Money

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Updated: January 31, 2017

Yesterday, the Angels signed Bud Norris to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. This means he has a chance to crack the major league roster. If he does make the major league roster, he is promised $1.75 million plus incentives, according to Jon Heyman. There’s only one problem with this contract though: it could be a waste of money.

As we all know, Spring Training stats mean almost nothing. If Norris does have a decent spring, he will most likely receive a spot on the 25-man roster. But with the World Baseball Classic taking place at the same time as Spring Training, Norris won’t face some of the big names he will have to get out to make a statement. If anything, Norris will face a star player maybe once per game. He will most likely be facing second-level talent and Quad-A players in every other at-bat. Those aren’t the players he’ll have to face once the season starts. The Angels shouldn’t make him the fifth starter just due to his Spring Training performance, but should instead take his stats into consideration when promoting him to the majors.

With the money promised to him once the season starts, the Angels could have afforded a quality bullpen piece. Norris has a 5.79 ERA in 196 innings over the past two seasons despite striking out 7.9 per nine. Of the 300 base runners he gave up (walk+hits), 126 turned into earned runs. That’s nearly half of the base runners he allowed that scored. Norris isn’t getting any younger, so this steep decline is a huge cause for concern. I believe that the Angels could have signed Carlos Villanueva to the same deal or for even less money than Norris, as they both had fairly disastrous seasons last year. From 2011-2015, Villanueva had a 4.01 ERA, a K/9 of 7.6, and an ERA+ of 100 in 49 starts, 144 relief appearances, and nearly 500 innings. Norris in that same span: a 4.44 ERA, a K/9 of 8.1, and an ERA+ of 90. Norris may strikeout more batters, but that has yet to spell success for him. Villanueva has been fairly consistent and would be less of a risk.

In short, this could be a bad deal for team that’s beginning to creep up to the luxury tax threshold. It doesn’t seem like much, but every penny counts if Arte Moreno wants to stay below the limit. If Norris doesn’t make the team out of Spring Training, then it won’t hurt the Angels as much. It would have been nicer for the Angels to promise that money to someone who is much closer to a sure thing than on a lottery ticket of a player. If Norris does end up performing well in the majors, then kudos to Billy Eppler for the find, but more than likely, the money will end up being wasted.

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