The Trouble With Trading Oswalt

added 5/27/2010 by Dr. Bill McCurdy

(Editor's note: This column is reposted with permission from the The Pecan Park Eagle. It was originally written before Wednesday night's results.)

If you look at the wall he's been up against over the past couple of years, but especially this season, you can't blame Roy Oswalt for wanting out of his situation with the Houston Astros. Everybody remotely close to things here in Houston and how these things work in baseball can see his point - but also the trouble the Astros are going to have fulfilling his request.

In his nine games pitched in 2010, Oswalt has pitched well enough to have been 9-0 with a club that can both hit and protect late inning leads. With an ERA of 2.66 and a WHIP score of 1.066, Roy has done the same job this year that he's done seven times in his first eight seasons (2001-08) of putting at least 14 wins in the success column for each of those seasons. This year, as you no doubt already know, he's off to a 2-6 record that threatens to end up worse than his 8-6 fall in the injury-filled year that was 2009. The victories that eluded Oswalt in 2009 were largely due to his own inability to pitch deep into games and the bullpen's inability to hold narrow leads. In 2010, the problem has been the almost total failure of the offense to give Roy any run support.

Now that Oswalt has finally had enough to shout "get me out of here," it isn't hard to see how that might be best for the player and a club that needs total rebuilding. On the surface, it says, "Hey, let's move Roy to a club where he has a chance of winning and maybe reaching another World Series while the Astros accept some good prospects in return that will help the team begin to paint a clearer picture of the future".

The troubles facing Astros General Manger Ed Wade in this matter hit fast and hard:

  • (1) Roy Oswalt turns 33 on August 29th and he now has a back injury history that has never been fully resolved.
  • (2) Oswalt is owed $31 million over the next two seasons with a $2 million dollar buyout for the 2012 season.
  • (3) Only a select group of teams have a great chance at the World Series over the next three years, but do those clubs both want to deal and have anything to offer that makes it really worthwhile to the Astros?
  • (4) Are there any qualified clubs out there who want to trade a couple of good young prospects for a 33-year old ace with back trouble history and a heavy salary baggage that comes with him, even if the Astros agree to absorb some of it?

    If any of us had the answers here, we could probably be of benefit to Ed Wade, but things don't work that way. The fact is, Ed Wade may not be able to do anything constructive with Oswalt's request. In that case, only two choices will remain and neither smacks as good news.

    If General Manager Wade can't move Oswalt in a deal that will at least help the Astros too, he will be forced to either appeal to Oswalt's sense of pride and professionalism and make the best of it here as an Astro, while trying to quell any backlash from teammates; or make a giveaway/salary dump deal just to get Roy out of Dodge because of the morale issue he could become for some of the others.

    I have liked Roy Oswalt from his rookie season and I wish that things had never come down to this kind of situation. The rookie 2001 version of Roy was so nice and respectful to my old friend, the late Jerry Witte, on that night in August that great old former Houston slugger got to throw out the first pitch and Roy Oswalt served as his "catcher."

    "Young man," Jerry asked of young Roy, "where did you learn to pitch like you do?"

    "My daddy taught me, sir," Oswalt said.

    "Well, you just keep up the good work," Jerry added. "You're a credit to your daddy and you're going to be big credit to the game of baseball."

    Jerry Witte was right about Roy Oswalt. When I think about Roy and how he so respectfully helped Jerry that night in his one and only trip to the new downtown ballpark, even standing with him through the National Anthem, I hate the thought of knowing that the young gentleman from Weir, Mississippi will soon be moving on.

    I know. Business is business. But Astro fans are going to miss Roy Oswalt once he's gone. At least he's not leaving over money. He's leaving, or wants to leave, so he can have a taste of winning the big one again. No matter who the Astros may get for him, it will be our loss, the fans' loss.

    The status of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio as career Astros is about to grow even larger as a baseball rarity.