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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

Astros-Phillies talking Lopez

The Astros are working on a deal that would send relief pitcher Wilton Lopez to the Phillies in exchange for Minor League prospects, a baseball source confirmed to MLB.com

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 Brett Myers and ineffectiveness of Francisco Cordero.

He posted the lowest walks-per-nine-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 began last season by facing 78 batters without issuing a walk.

Brian McTaggart

Astros trade Johnson to the D-backs

The Astros traded third baseman Chris Johnson to the D-backs on Sunday in exchange for Minor League infielder Bobby Borchering and outfielder  Marc Krauss.

Borchering, 21, was the D-backs first pick in the 2009 MLB First Year Player Draft while Krauss, 24, was taken in the second round of the 2009 Draft.

Borchering has played in 102 games combined at Class A Visalia and Double-A Mobile  in 2012, tallying 23 doubles, 20 home runs and 68 RBI. In 2011, he had 29 doubles, 24 homers and 92 RBI for Visalia. He attended Bishop Verot High School, the same high school Johnson attended years earlier

Krauss hit .283 in 104 games at Mobile with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs with a .416 on-base pct. and a .509 slugging percentage. Krauss, who was invited to the D-backs Major League camp in Spring Training this year, was a California League All-Star in 2012 at Visalia after hitting .302 in 138 games with 27 doubles, 25 home runs, 87 RBIs and a .509 slugging percentage.

Johnson hit .279 in 92 games for the Astros this season with eight home runs and 41 RBIs.

– Brian McTaggart

Myers heading to White Sox

The Astros have acquired right-hander Matt Heidenreich, left-hander Blair Walters and a player to be named later from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for veteran Brett Myers.

Heidenreich (6-5, 185) was  9-4 with a 3.95 ERA in 18 combined starts at Winston-Salem (Class A) and Birmingham (Double-A) with two complete games and a shutout. He was a Carolina League mid-season All-Star and earned the league Pitcher of the Week award for the week of June 2nd. The 21-year-old, who was the White Sox fourth-round selection in the 2009 draft, has a 25-17 record in four Minor League seasons with a 3.87 ERA in 75 appearances (56 starts). He will be assigned to Corpus Christi (Double-A).

Walters, 22, was 4-6 with a 3.96 ERA in 18 combined starts with Kannapolis (Class A) and Winston-Salem (Class A) this season while tallying 93 strikeouts in 97 2.3innings with 22 walks. Walters, who was taken in the 11th round of the 2011 draft by the White Sox, has a 13-6 record in his two minor league seasons with a 3.99 ERA in 32 appearances (31 starts) with 165 punchouts in 171 1/3 innings of work. He will be assigned to Lancaster (A).

 “The pitchers we are receiving are talented, young prospects with big league upside,” Luhnow said. “They have had success in their young careers and we’re excited to add them to the mix.”

This season, the 31-year-old Myers was 0-4 with a 3.52 ERA in 35 relief appearances for Houston with 19 saves in 21 chances as he made the transition from starter to reliever.

“Brett showed that he was a real team player by going to the bullpen for us and was very successful as our closer,” Luhnow said. “We appreciate everything he has done for us.”

Lee-to-Dodgers deal is dead

Tired of waiting for an answer from Astros first baseman Carlos Lee whether he would waive his limited no-trade clause, the Dodgers have pulled their trade offer, according to a baseball source.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow didn’t return a message seeking comment.

Lee said following Sunday’s game against the Cubs that he still hadn’t made a decision on whether to accept the trade, though several of his teammates believe the slugger wanted to stay with the Astros. Lee was pulled into manager Brad Mills’ office upon his arrival at Wrigley Field for a closed-door meeting and left with the club for Pittsburgh on Sunday night.

Lee said Saturday he was informed by Luhnow he would be sent to Dodgers in a trade if he approved the deal. Lee, in the final year of six-year, $100-million contract, has a limited no-trade clause and would have to waive it to be sent to Los Angeles. He has given the Astros a list of 14 teams to which his contract may not be assigned (he had the ability to change that list at the end of last year). The limited no-trade supersedes his 10-5 rights to veto any trade.

Brian McTaggart

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