Tigers get Minors RHP Olson, deal Norris

July 30th, 2021

DETROIT -- Six years to the day after Daniel Norris joined the Tigers at the Trade Deadline, the left-hander found himself on the other end of a veteran-for-prospect deal. He leaves the team in a different stage of its process than when he joined it.

Norris joins a division leader in Milwaukee, which acquired him Friday for right-handed prospect . He joins his first playoff race in five years, with a chance at the first postseason work of his career. But he leaves a team in Detroit that he saw from the low points of its rebuilding project to a team on the rise.

“The toughest part is seeing where this team is now and seeing the rise of it, and how much fun it’s been to win,” Norris said shortly after the trade. “I think that’s one of the reasons I’m really sad about leaving. I feel like this is a winning team. Even going out in public and seeing people wanting to turn the game on at a restaurant and hearing people excited about the Tigers has been really cool this year. So I’ll miss that. But I’m obviously very happy for this team and how far it’s come.”

The Tigers have come far enough that they didn’t have much to do at the Deadline. Though they were in talks for most of Friday leading up to the Deadline, including late interest in relievers Michael Fulmer and José Cisnero, Norris to Milwaukee was the only deal completed.

In many ways, they fell into the tweener stage at this year’s Deadline, neither tearing things down with veterans to trade nor building up for a playoff run. Injuries to veteran starters Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull likely contributed to a lack of activity, but with just two prominent soon-to-be free agents and a low payroll, the Tigers could pursue deals they wanted rather than needed.

“We have a lot of good, young players,” general manager Al Avila said. “And so I think there’s just a difference of where we’re at right now as a team, and where some of these other teams were, that were willing to move some stars, accomplished players.”

The deal ends an injury-riddled but memorable Tigers tenure for Norris, who arrived at the 2015 Deadline in the David Price trade and joined the Tigers rotation just a few days later. His career in Detroit took him from promising young starter to mercurial but veteran lefty reliever. In the end, he was a valuable, versatile pitcher whose off-field persona -- from surfer to traveler -- overshadowed an intense competitor and better teammate who battled through injuries to become a contributor again and now gets a chance to win.

“It’s remarkable the work that he puts in and how in-tune he was with going back and forth between starting and relieving,” manager A.J. Hinch said, “and then this year just being a reliever and getting off to a tough start and being mentally strong enough to still develop some usefulness and ultimately be really good his last few outings here and be a [pitcher] that a playoff team wanted to acquire.”

Norris posted a 1-3 record and 5.89 ERA in 38 games, allowing 38 hits over 36 2/3 innings with 15 walks and 40 strikeouts. His last month, however, saw a turnaround, with 8 1/3 innings of three-hit, three-run ball and nine strikeouts. Opponents batted .107 with a .301 OPS against him in July.

The 21-year-old Olson started 14 games for High-A Wisconsin, posting a 5-4 record with a 4.30 ERA and 79 strikeouts over 69 innings. He entered Friday tied for third in the High-A Central in strikeouts, sixth in innings pitched and ninth in WHIP.

“He’s performing very well right now,” Avila said. “Our team in the [High-A Central] has faced him; our scouts had good reports on him. He’s got a good arsenal of pitches -- fastball, curveball, slider, changeup. So we feel with that arsenal, we’re hopeful he stays as a starting pitcher.”

Olson -- now ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Tigers' No. 13 prospect -- was a 13th-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft out of high school. He experienced a velocity jump this season behind his improvement, helped by work he put in during last year’s lost season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Olson will stay in the High-A Central for now, transferring to West Michigan, but is expected to advance to Double-A Erie shortly, Avila said.

While the relief market was hot, the market for non-star hitters was cooler. The Tigers ultimately decided to hold on to infielder as he nears the end of his one-year contract.

“Schoopey is doing great, and he’s happy,” Avila said. “He’s doing well. He’s going to continue to contribute here, and we’ll see what happens.”

Whether that ends up with a contract extension remains to be seen.

“I don’t want to dive into that yet. I’m not going to predict anything,” Avila said. “These things don’t always turn out easily done. All I know is obviously he’s done well for us, he likes it here and we like him. Things have turned out to be pretty good so far, and we’ll just see how that goes on.”