The Imperfect Storm

added 7/28/2010 by Darrell Pittman

Ever since Roy Oswalt's trade "request" hit the media about six weeks ago, we Astro fans have been bombarded with a media frenzy, endless rumors and speculation, and some blame-gaming as well.

So as we try to separate the wheat from the chaff, three things are clear:

If you read one commentator, Drayton McLane and/or Ed Wade are being too greedy. According to another, Oswalt is whiny for wanting out of Houston in the first place, or too picky in where he'd approve a trade. For others, it's some combination of the three. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

From what I've read, Oswalt didn't demand to be traded. His agent contacted Ed or Drayton privately and let them know that Roy would waive his no-trade clause for a contender, if it would help the team. Someone in the Astros' front office leaked it to a Chicago paper while the Astros were playing there. Why they did that, I can't even guess. Either they thought it would help Roy, or back him into a corner.

In a perfect world, it would be wonderful if we could trade Roy to a contender (preferably, not someone in our own division, let alone the National League), to someplace he wants to be, and we get a couple of blue-chip prospects in return. Unfortunately, Roy has a 2008 salary in a 2010 economy, and no one wants to pick it up.

Where Roy has hurt himself -- from a PR standpoint -- is his waffling on the issue of whether the new club has to pick up his option year. Apparently, he would waive that requirement only for the Cardinals. The other clubs know all this, and it ties the Astros' hands in negotiations.

You can't blame Drayton and Ed for wanting to get value in return for Roy. If you had a Ferrari, you'd demand top dollar at trade-in.

You can't blame Roy for wanting to play for a contender. He's 32, and at the end of his option year he'll be 34. He knows that the clock is ticking on his career. He's tasted the postseason, and the World Series, and he wants another shot at the brass ring. Who wouldn't?

You can't blame the other teams. True, Roy has been and still can be a dominant pitcher, and has two 20-win seasons in his hip pocket. But he's also 32, and has a history of back, hip, and groin injuries. If you're the GM for a contending team, how confidant are you that you can give Roy the keys for a pennant run? Also, how do you pay the remainder of his contract, and that pesky option year?

Right now it looks like nothing will happen. Worst case is Roy will languish in Houston the remainder of this season. But he will continue to be a pro and pitch his heart out for the Astros, just like he has for the last ten years. After this season, who knows what the fates hold in store? The present urgency of the potential trade partners will be significantly lessened.

The plain fact is that no one in this melodrama will act unless it is in their own percieved best interest, and the Oswalt situation involves three parties at a minimum: Roy and his family, the Astros, and the other club. Any deal has to be a "win-win-win" all around, and that's what makes it difficult.

For a trade to happen, the Astros have to find a suitable trade partner (not in our division, I pray), for whom Roy would agree to play. Said partner would have to have a couple top-level propects they'd be willing to deal that the Astros could use. The Astros can't be too greedy and ask for the Moon; in fact, they will have to carry a portion of Roy's salary. Roy has to be more flexible about his destination, his option year, and possibly restructuring his contract.

The tell in Roy's attitude was when he indicated early on that after he makes his run with another team, he'd like to come back to Houston and finish his career as an Astro. To me, that speaks volumes.

Ironically enough, it was the departure of another iconic pitcher, Billy Wagner, that was the harbinger of the current fiasco. The comment he made that got him whisked out of town? That the Astros' front office was interested only in contending every year, not necessarily winning it all... and that ultimately proved to be true. Funny how those chickens come home to roost.

I think that all who bleed orange wish Roy Oswalt the best of luck and happiness, no matter the outcome. And we should thank him for all he's done to make the last ten years so fun.

Even more important, there's at last a glimmer of hope that the Astros' front office is tuning back into reality. The warm afterglow of the 2005 World Series has finally worn off, and the inevitable hangover has set in. A stiff dose of reality is way overdue at the corner of Texas Avenue and Crawford Street.

Darrell Pittman is curmudgeon-at-large at Astros Daily. If you see him, hide your women-folk and buy ammo.

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