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Report: Astros’ Maxwell traded to Royals

The Astros have traded outfielder Justin Maxwell to the Royals, according to a Tweet by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

Maxwell was hitting .241 with two homers and four home runs in 40 games, but missed two months of the season with a fractured hand. The 29-year-old outfielder led the Astros with 18 home runs last year after being acquired off waivers from the Nationals.

– Brian McTaggart

Norris drawing lots of interest as deadline nears

Astros pitcher Bud Norris continues to get interest from the Giants and Pirates with teams like the D-backs and Rangers also in the mix, MLB Network’s Peter Gammons reported on Twitter.

A source told MLB.com on Tuesday the D-backs, Orioles and Pirates were three of the teams showing the most interest in him.

Norris, 28, is 6-9 with a 3.93 ERA in 21 starts and is on pace to throw 200 innings for the first time in his career. Norris is making $3 million this year in his first year of arbitration and would certainly be attractive to a team considering he’s under club control for two more seasons.

– Brian McTaggart

D-backs, Pirates and Orioles interested in Norris

The D-backs, Pirates and Orioles are three of the teams showing the most interest in Astros starting pitcher Bud Norris, a source told MLB.com. Norris was scratched from his scheduled start against the Orioles on Tuesday in Baltimore for what he said was “a lot of reasons,” but a potential trade appears to be in the works.

Astros manager Bo Porter said trade talks were deepening, but he wouldn’t identify which teams were after the 28-year-old right-hander.

Norris is 6-9 with a 3.93 ERA in 21 starts and is on pace to throw 200 innings for the first time in his career. Norris is making $3 million this year in his first year of arbitration and would certainly be attractive to a team considering he’s under club control for two more seasons. he is 0-2 with an 8.47 ERA in his last three starts after going 2-3 with a 2.29 ERA in his eight starts prior to those three.

– Brian McTaggart

Norris remains center of trade talks

Astros manager Bo Porter acknowledged Sunday there’s a chance right-handed pitcher Bud Norris could be dealt prior to Wednesday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline. Norris, who’s scheduled to pitch Tuesday in Baltimore, is 0-2 with an 8.47 ERA in his last three starts, and Porter spoke to him last week about the importance of worrying about pitching and ignoring any rumors. Porter thinks Bud Norris is in a better frame of mind now.

“I explained this Bud in several conversations in which we’ve had as it relates to this whole trade rumor: the best thing you can do is go out and play,” Porter said. “I don’t have a crystal ball, Bud Norris doesn’t have a crystal ball. None of us are psychic. We can’t predict what’s going to happen. Is there a probability? Yes, because he’s a commodity in which other people would like to have, but at the same time he’s a commodity for us as well.

“Like I said to him, just go out and pitch and don’t worry about what the next day is going to bring and whether you’re going to be here or someplace else. Let the decision-makers that are making those decisions be able to be allowed them to make the decisions and you control the portion of this that’s in your hands, which is your performance.”

Relief pitcher Jose Veras could also be moved prior to Wednesday, and Porter acknowledged there’s a chance some deals could be made.

“When you have players other teams are interested in, you’re bouncing a bunch of things off the wall,” Porter said. “Obviously, I’m here on the field with the day to day, so I’m not privileged to all the many conversation in which they’re having, but [general manager] Jeff [Luhnow] and I are in communication in relations to the different teams that are interested in our players.”

– Brian McTaggart

Could Norris be next to move?

With Matt Garza apparently heading to the Rangers from the Cubs, Astros right-hander Bud Norris becomes one of the next biggest prizes on the trade market. The non-waiver Trade Deadline is July 31. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Monday the team remains in trade conversation, but he didn’t sound as if a trade was imminent.

“Lot of chatter and no activity on our side right now,” he said. “I’m hearing there was a big trade today, and if that’s true that may start a series of different type of talks now that one of the big chips has been moved.”

Norris, 28, is 6-9 with a 3.91 ERA in 20 starts this year for the Astros and has been their most consistent starting pitcher. Luhnow hasn’t been shy about trading veteran players for prospects in the last 18 months, and the fact Norris makes $3 million and is eligible for arbitration again this winter could make a trade more likely.

– Brian McTaggart

Berkman to sign with the Rangers

Lance Berkman told MLB.com on Saturday he had agreed to a one-year with deal with a vesting option for 2014 with the Texas Rangers, pending a physical. Berkman said he was mulling retirement and wouldn’t have played if the circumstances weren’t right.

The Rangers proved to be the perfect fit for several reasons, Berkman  said.

“There is a lot of things,” he said. “One is the opportunity to DH. I think that’s going to be really good for me from a physical standpoint in terms of staying healthy for a full year and obviously geography – I’m a Texas guy all the way – so I could get back to the home state and being close to home is huge for me and my family. I think the Rangers have an excellent chance to win. I think they have a very solid team, so all those things kind of add up and it makes a lot of sense.”

Berkman, who turns 37 on Feb. 10, was considering retirement after an injury-plagued 2012 with the Cardinals. He underwent two surgeries on his right knee and played 32 games, hitting .259 with an .826 OPS, two home runs and seven RBIs. Berkman appeared in only six games and started two after July 29 and was left off St. Louis’ playoff roster.

– Brian McTaggart

Astros not in free agent discussions

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said in a text Saturday the team is not in “active discussions at this time with free agents.” The text came after Luhnow was asked about Jose Lopez telling reporters at a press conference in Venezuela he was closing to signing with the Astros. Lopez said he was flying to Houston on Wednesday, presumably for a physical.

Lopez, 29, hit .246 with four homers in 248 plate appearances with the Indians and White Sox last year. He played first base, second base, third base and right field. He best year was in 2009, when he hit 25 homers with 96 RBIs for Seattle.

-- Brian McTaggart

Rockies-Astros swap pitchers

The Astros acquired the starting pitching they sought when they made a trade with the Rockies late Tuesday to land right-hander Alex White and a Minor League arm in exchange for reliever Wilton Lopez and a player to be named

Less than a week after the Astros tried to send Lopez to the Phillies, they were able to use the arbitration-eligible relief pitcher to acquire White and right-hander Alex Gillingham. White appeared in 23 games (20 starts) for the Rockies last season and was 2-9 with a 5.51 ERA.

Lopez has been a workhorse member of the Astros’ bullpen the past three years, going 6-3 with a 2.17 ERA last season in 64 games. He also had a career-high 10 saves after assuming the club’s closer role following the trade of Myers and ineffectiveness of Francisco Cordero.

Brian McTaggart

 

A’s sign Scott Moore

Scott Moore, who hit .259 with nine homers and 26 RBIs in a part-time role with the Astros last season, has signed  a Minor League deal with the A’s with an invitation to Spring Training.

Moore, who was outrighted by the Astros earlier this month, played in 72 games last season for Houston, starting games at five different positions – third base, first base, right field, second base and left field.

“I had quite a few offers and Oakland called me and talked to me and basically there, guys in my situation have been known to get pretty good opportunities to play,” he said. “Also, I’m going into my 12th season and I’ve never really anywhere remotely close to home (southern California) and that was pretty exciting, too.”

– Brian McTaggart

Astros-Phillies deal hits a roadblock

The Astros proposed trade to send relief pitcher Wilton Lopez to the Phillies appears to have hit a stumbling block.

Lopez, who was in Philadelphia on Wednesday for a physical, remains with the Astros on Thursday. The two teams were working on a deal to send Lopez to Philadelphia in exchange for a pair of Minor League prospects, but the Astros are exploring other options.

Lopez, 29, would have been a nice addition to the Phillies bullpen. He went 6-3 with a 2.17 ERA last season in 64 games with 10 saves. He posted the lowest walks-per-innings ratio among all NL relievers (1.09) last season after setting the franchise record in 2010 by issuing only five walks in 67 innings pitched.

He missed 26 games in the middle of last season with a sprained right elbow.

Brian McTaggart

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