By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The Houston Astros. You just have to love ’em.

The Astros are currently in last place, a position in which they’ve grown comfortable in recent years. They haven’t made the postseason since 2005, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have championship-caliber thoughts, desires and aspirations.

That much was clear in a story from Deadspin on Monday. The story posted leaked information from the Houston Astros’ online database that was intended to be for the front office’s internal eyes only. Unfortunately for Houston, the information leaked, and Jeff Passan confirmed the authenticity.

It’s unfortunate because the world can now see just how highly the Astros regarded pitcher Bud Norris ahead of last year’s trade deadline. Norris eventually was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Josh Hader and L.J. Hoes. As was evident in the report, the Astros clearly wanted much more than that.

The Sox were looking for a starting pitcher to round out their rotation last July, and they ended up getting Jake Peavy on July 30. That wasn’t before kicking the tires on Norris, and presumably a handful of other starters. According to the documents, the Red Sox were willing to trade either Deven Marrero or Ryan Lavarnway to get Norris. Despite the fact that Marrero projects to be a solid major league shortstop, the Astros rejected that trade.

Instead, they wanted more. Much, much more.

“[Astros GM Jeff Luhnow] told [Red Sox GM Ben Cherington] that it would have to be one of [Xander] Boegarts, [Allen] Webster, [Jackie] Bradley, or [Garin] Cecchini to get in the conversation at this point,” the documents stated.

To review, that’s essentially Boston’s top five prospects. The Astros wanted one of them. For Bud Norris. Bud Norris!

Though most general managers might have succumbed to never-ending fits of laughter upon hearing such a proposal, Cherington had the decency to give Luhnow a return phone call to share his feelings.

“[Cherington] told [Luhnow] that right now they don’t think they would consider those names but will let JL know if that changes,” the documents said.

But Cherington still wanted Norris.

“[Cherington] texted JL and said they couldn’t include Boegarts, Cecchini, Webster, or Bradley but thought they had enough depth to still make an appealing package. JL wrote back and asked if they would consider a package around Barnes and Owens.”

Yet again, Houston was shooting high, asking for Henry Owens and Matt Barnes, aka two of the top four or five pitching prospects in the Red Sox system. Owens, a 6-foot-6 lefty, is 10-3 with a 2.35 ERA for Double-A Portland this season, and he posted a 1.78 ERA in six double-A starts last season. He might already be better than Bud Norris for all we know.

The Red Sox held on to their top prospects, and they went on to win the World Series.

Through last July, Norris was 6-9 with an ERA just under 4 in the NL Central. He ended up going 4-3 with a 4.80 ERA for the Orioles in nine starts, helping the Orioles to finish in third place, 6.5 games out of  a wild-card spot. As it turns out, Bud Norris was not the answer, and he wasn’t worth much at the deadline.

Nevertheless, the Astros were aiming high. (They also asked Baltimore for Dylan Bundy.)

Instead of getting what they wanted, they got Hader and Hoes. And now they’re in last place, 16 games behind Oakland, wondering which top-tier prospects they can snatch for mediocre players at the upcoming trade deadline.

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.



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