Rating The Oswalt Trade Options

added 7/3/2010 by Bob Hulsey

As we enter the trade deadline month of July, it is becoming time to for the Astros and General Manager Ed Wade to start talking turkey about trading Roy Oswalt and other veterans.

There are heated pennant races in all six divisions which should help create some competition for trading partners. In this column, I'm going to focus on Oswalt as the crown jewel of the Astros' trade hopefuls and the possibilities of each contender to make a potential deal for him.

Oswalt has value because he's a proven post-season pitcher and one who gives a steady performance over time. That is off-set somewhat by a contract with as much as $30 million left on it and some recent injury history. Each team is ranked in four categories in terms of their suitability for a trade on a scale of 1 (not likely) to 5 (very likely).

How badly does the team need rotation help? Can they afford to add Oswalt to their payroll this year and next? Do they have good prospects to offer the Astros in trade? Since Oswalt has a no-trade clause, it must also be considered whether Roy would like to play for that team.

The rankings below doesn't mean each of these teams has a need or even an interest in trading for Oswalt. However, I'm including all the contenders since you'll never know who might want to swing a deal. I don't think Oswalt will want to pitch for Toronto (exchange rate) or any club with a losing record. Otherwise, all options are presented. Won-Loss records and standings are through Friday, July 2nd.

Some of the rankings are my own opinion or guesswork based on statements Oswalt has made over the years. Also, not all factors should be weighed equally, even though this is how I came up with an overall score. If you are looking for tie-breakers, consider the first two factors more important than the last two.

1. Texas Rangers (47-32 AW-1 0.0): 16

Need rotation help – 5
Can afford Oswalt's contract – 2
Good prospects to trade – 5
Would appeal to Oswalt – 4

Skinny: Were it not for the Tom Hicks bankruptcy, this might already have been a done deal. If that issue gets resolved by the end of the month, look for new owner Nolan Ryan to make a trade happen. That, however, is a huge "if" right now.

2. Detroit Tigers (42-36 AC-2 1.0): 14

Need rotation help – 5
Can afford Oswalt's contract – 3
Good prospects to trade – 3
Would appeal to Oswalt – 3

Skinny: Justin Verlander is great but he can't pitch every day and the Tigers are hurting when he doesn't start. They aren't a traditional power, however, and how warm and fuzzy will Roy feel about having Jose Valverde as his closer again?

3. Los Angeles Dodgers (43-36 NW-2 3.5): 14

Need rotation help – 3
Can afford Oswalt's contract – 4
Good prospects to trade – 3
Would appeal to Oswalt – 4

Skinny: Friendship with former catcher Brad Ausmus could be a plus. The Dodgers could really use a veteran ace but they don't talk like a team who wants to make this work.

4. Chicago White Sox (41-37 AC-3 2.0): 14

Need rotation help – 3
Can afford Oswalt's contract – 3
Good prospects to trade – 2
Would appeal to Oswalt – 4

Skinny: The surging Sox features Oswalt's best friend (Jake Peavy) and his favorite road city (Chicago) but the Peavy trade cleaned the Sox out of top prospects and salary space. This still deserves watching.

5. Tampa Bay Rays (46-33 AE-3 2.0): 14

Need rotation help – 3
Can afford Oswalt's contract – 2
Good prospects to trade – 5
Would appeal to Oswalt – 4

Skinny: Before recent problems with Matt Garza and James Shields, there was no need for the Rays to be interested. That's rapidly changing. A southern venue would appeal to Roy, as would reuniting with his former pitching coach. But would the low-budget Rays want Oswalt's contract? Now that they've fallen from first, the Rays may be more open to the idea.

6. New York Yankees (48-31 AE-1 0.0): 13

Need rotation help – 2
Can afford Oswalt's contract – 5
Good prospects to trade – 2
Would appeal to Oswalt – 4

Skinny: Price is not a problem. They may get him just to keep him away from their contenders. If Oswalt desperately wants a Worlds Series ring, this may be his best option.

7. Boston Red Sox (48-32 AE-2 0.5): 13

Need rotation help – 3
Can afford Oswalt's contract – 4
Good prospects to trade – 3
Would appeal to Oswalt – 3

Skinny: I'm not sure how the Red Sox and Oswalt feel about each other. Like the Yankees, the BoSox can make the dollars work if the desire is there. But do the Sox want or need Roy?

8. Philadelphia Phillies (41-37 NE-3 5.0): 13

Need rotation help – 3
Can afford Oswalt's contract – 4
Good prospects to trade – 2
Would appeal to Oswalt – 4

Skinny: Struggling and injury-plagued N.L. Champs might make a panic buy here to keep their playoff hopes alive. Like the White Sox, recent trades have depleted the farm system. Would pairing him with former closer Brad Lidge be a plus or a minus in Oswalt's mind?

9. Minnesota Twins (44-36 AC-1 0.0): 13

Need rotation help – 4
Can afford Oswalt's contract – 3
Good prospects to trade – 3
Would appeal to Oswalt – 3

Skinny: A new ballpark means a looser wallet for the typically tight-fisted Twins. A veteran ace could give them a big lift but how would Roy feel about strange surroundings? A definite darkhorse, particularly if the Tigers or White Sox step forward.

10. New York Mets (45-35 NE-2 2.0): 12

Need rotation help – 3
Can afford Oswalt's contract – 4
Good prospects to trade – 2
Would appeal to Oswalt – 3

Skinny: The rotation hasn't been that bad but they could pair Johan Santana with Oswalt to give them some playoff cred. Money won't be a problem. What do the Mets have to offer in return?

11. Los Angeles Angels (45-37 AW-2 3.5): 12

Need rotation help – 3
Can afford Oswalt's contract – 3
Good prospects to trade – 3
Would appeal to Oswalt – 3

Skinny: I don't see a compelling need here for either the Angels or Oswalt however the Halos could be a player in trade talks just to keep him away from the Rangers. If so, it shows the mark of an organization that displays some forethought.

12. Colorado Rockies (43-37 NW-3 4.0): 12

Need rotation help – 4
Can afford Oswalt's contract – 2
Good prospects to trade – 3
Would appeal to Oswalt – 3

Skinny: He pitched a one-hitter two years ago at Coors Field but I can't imagine Oswalt being thrilled about the idea of pitching there regularly. Pairing him with Ubaldo Jimenez makes a formidable 1-2 punch for the playoffs but Roy with the Rockies? Hard to imagine.

13. St. Louis Cardinals (44-36 NC-2 1.5): 12

Need rotation help – 2
Can afford Oswalt's contract – 3
Good prospects to trade – 2
Would appeal to Oswalt – 5

Skinny: Oswalt's preferred place to go but the Cards don't need him and their farm system is as barren as ours. Their front office may also have trouble paying for both Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday so they'd be hesitant to add another large salary.

14. Atlanta Braves (47-33 NE-1 0.0): 12

Need rotation help – 2
Can Afford Oswalt's contract – 2
Good prospects to trade – 3
Would appeal to Oswalt – 5

Skinny: Pitching is not Atlanta's problem. While it would be one of Oswalt’s preferred destinations, I just don't see this happening unless an injury bug strikes the starting rotation between now and month's end. The Braves also tend to overvalue their prospects as trade pieces.

15. Cincinnati Reds (46-35 NC-1 0.0): 11

Need rotation help – 3
Can afford Oswalt's contract – 2
Good prospects to trade – 4
Would appeal to Oswalt – 2

Skinny: Oswalt has murdered the Reds until recently so I wouldn't blame them for getting Roy out of self-defense, but would Oswalt want to pitch there and do the Reds have enough payroll to make a trade work? I'm guessing they don't.

16. San Francisco Giants (40-39 NW-4 6.5): 10

Need rotation help – 2
Can afford Oswalt's contract – 3
Good prospects to trade – 2
Would appeal to Oswalt – 3

Skinny: Like the Braves, pitching is not their problem. I just can't see this working unless the Giants are willing to send back Matt Cain or Jonathan Sanchez. I wouldn't hold my breath on that.

17. San Diego Padres (47-33 NW-1 0.0): 9

Need rotation help – 2
Can afford Oswalt's contract – 1
Good prospects to trade – 3
Would appeal to Oswalt – 3

Skinny: I can't see the bargain basement Padres being a match unless somebody gets desperate.

So, clearly, the Rangers make the most sense but there's a huge road block in their financial mess standing in the way. If the Rangers must bow out, the Tigers, Dodgers, White Sox and Rays make the next best case but none of them are currently in first so it is hard to tell if any of them would want to make such a move.

Don’t dismiss the Yankees and Red Sox, particularly if the Rays show any interest (as skullduggery, the Rays ought to show interest just to force the other two to jump in). Likewise, the Mets and Phillies could also play a game of chicken with each other.

Complicating issues is the availability of the Mariners' Cliff Lee who is a more attractive trade target, in some ways, to Oswalt because there would be less contractual obligations with Lee.

Wherever he goes (and the Astros may not trade him at all), Houston fans will be more interested in what comes back in return. Right now, there are too many possibilities to discuss names but, as the month moves on, the potential candidates will narrow.