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Astros' Roy Oswalt Must Ease Up on Trade Demands

Next thing you know, Roy Oswalt is going to be demanding a solid-gold rocket car, his own pony, and a partridge in a pear tree.  The 32 year old ace wants out of Houston, but his demands are making it difficult for the Astros’ organization to oblige. 

The first stumbling block is Oswalt’s full no-trade clause, which allows him to dictate what locations would be acceptable destinations.  Given his advancing age, it’s perfectly reasonable for Oswalt to want to join a contender and involve himself in a pennant race, and of course a pitcher of his caliber is going to appeal most to teams that have something to play for.  Still, being able to veto any deal does shrink the buyer pool.

The second issue has to do with his current condition.  Although he’s having a stellar 2010 season thus far, Oswalt is a relatively undersized, right-handed pitcher on the wrong side of 30.  He posted an ERA of 4.12 with a 1.24 WHIP in 2009; not particular ace-like numbers, especially in the lowly N.L. Central.   In 2008, he had a 3.54 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.  So since 2007, he’s had the 2 worst years of his career in terms of allowing runs.  Admittedly, he was impacted by some nagging injuries, but that doesn’t excuse the numbers.  If anything, it makes teams more wary about his prospective performance. 

Though he surely has some great seasons left in him and though scouts have said that his stuff is as good this year as it has been at any point in his career, any team that brings him on board has to take the long view and determine what impact he would make on the club over the next several seasons.

That goes hand in hand with the financial considerations– Oswalt is guaranteed $15 million in 2010 and $16 million in 2011, making him an expensive acquisition.  The salary isn’t out of line with the skills he brings to the table, but Oswalt has complicated matters by demanding that his 2012 option be guaranteed as part of the deal.  That represents an additional $16 million, upping his total price to nearly $40 million:  the $7 million remaining in 2010 and $16 million in each of the next 2 seasons.

The Phillies have some pieces to trade, like outfielder Jayson Werth. But getting Oswalt might not be easy.

That’s a demand that borders on the ludicrous.  Not only would a team need to pilfer its lineup and/or farm system considerably, it would also have to fork over a large amount of money to make this thing work.

Rumors have been swirling since the All-Star break that Philadelphia wants to acquire Oswalt, and the most popular theory is that the teams would work out some kind of 3-way swap that would bring Oswalt in and send Jayson Werth away.  Werth, a free agent to be, will demand a sizable contract of his own, making it likely that the Phillies would unload him as part of any deal for Oswalt or another expensive commodity.

The Phillies have agreed in principle to paying the nearly $25 million Oswalt will earn through the end of 2011, but the club doesn’t want to guarantee the 2012 option, which has, for now, killed the deal.

The question is which side will blink in this game of chicken?  The trading deadline is fast approaching, and if this is going to get done it will probably have to happen within the next week.  Philly needs pitching help.  Badly.  And Oswalt has repeatedly stressed his desire to leave Houston.  On paper, it’s a nice fit for all concerned. 

Yet he seems to be tying the Astros’ hands.

If Oswalt truly wants to move to a contender, he must be more reasonable.  He has to be willing to take less guaranteed money and he needs to be more open about where he goes.  If he continues to push these absurd stipulations, he’s going to stay mired near the bottom of the N.L. Central until next year.

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