The astronomical odds against trading for Roy Oswalt.

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Dustin Nippert faced
five Cubs hitters Saturday.  He started
all five with ball one. 


For the season, he’s
faced 115 batters.  He’s started 62 with ball
one.  That’s 54 percent of Nippert’s
opponents that start off with a 1-0 count. 
The league as a whole gets behind 1-0 just 42 percent of the time.


Enough of that. 


OK, OK, OK.  I get it. 
You want to know whether Roy Oswalt will be a Texas Ranger.


I haven’t gotten
this many emails on one subject since St. Patrick’s Day’s off-the-field news.


Would Texas want Roy Oswalt? 
Of course.  At 32, he remains one
of the most consistently effective starting pitchers in baseball.


Would Houston trade Oswalt? 
Maybe.  On the heels of the
righthander’s announcement that he’d waive his full no-trade clause to “try[ ]
to get back to the playoffs,” and that he thinks a trade might be “a good thing
for both [him and the team],” Astros GM Ed Wade has pointed out that his ace “has
a no-trade clause, not a ‘trade-me’ clause,” as a way of saying he’s not going
to be forced by the player into trading him. 
Still, you’d have to think that Oswalt’s apparent assurance to Astros
owner Drayton McLane that, if traded, he’d “love to come back and finish [his]
career” in Houston theoretically makes the idea of springing him for a
mini-foundation of young talent more palatable. 


Would Oswalt agree to come to Texas?  Evidently. 
He’s apparently told friends and reporters that there are three teams for
whom he’d waive the no-trade and accept a deal to – Texas, Atlanta, and St.
Louis – with some suggestion that the Dodgers and Red Sox might be on his list
as well. 


And don’t discount the prospect for Oswalt of pitching for
Nolan Ryan and his former Round Rock manager Jackie Moore and his former Round
Rock pitching coach Mike Maddux, with a club that sits in pretty good position
as far as the standings are concerned.


There.  It’s on a tee,


Absolutely not.


Here’s why you shouldn’t hold your breath:


OWNERSHIP: Continuing to hide behind my policy not to
comment on a mess situation I really know nothing about (and not to rely
on or report any of the high-spun position statements fired off by the
creditors bloc), I’m not going to predict where this is headed or when it gets
resolved, but it seems relatively clear that a club that will have to draft a
little more carefully than it might have otherwise in a couple weeks is not
going to be able to take on a pitcher owed a guaranteed $29 million over the
next two years while ownership remains unsettled.


OK.  A turn of the
donkey wheel, and the ownership chaos has vanished.  Time to stitch up an “Oswalt 44” jersey in Rangers




THAT $29 MILLION: Yes, I expect Rangers Baseball Express to be
ready to infuse a chunk into the payroll when it takes the ownership reins,
whenever that time comes.  Yes, it makes sense
that a playoff-caliber starting pitcher would be targeted.  Yes, Oswalt fits the description.  But even if $2.5 million per month the rest
of the way this season is tolerable, is spending $16 million on Oswalt in 2011
(really, $18 million, since there’s a $2 million buyout to void another $16 million
commitment in 2012) the smartest way to improve next year’s club, given where
its perceived strengths and holes will be?


not.  Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports says
McLane won’t do it.  But let’s say he
changes his mind.  Every chunk of cash the
Astros are asked to chip in cranks up the level of young players and prospects
Houston will demand in return.  Case in
point: It’s arguable that the package Toronto got from Philadelphia in December
in exchange for Roy Halladay – AA pitcher Kyle Drabek, Low A catcher Travis D’Arnaud,
and AAA corner infielder Brett Wallace (via Oakland, who received minor league
outfielder Michael Taylor from the Phillies) – wasn’t as strong as the Derek
Holland/Justin Smoak package the Jays reportedly sought from Texas in July, but
a key reason that Toronto wouldn’t take less from the Rangers is that they were
likely (and necessarily) needing a greater subsidy from the Jays for a year and
two months of Halladay than the $6 million that Toronto sent Philadelphia for the
2010 season.  (Another way to look at this,
however: It might be that Toronto was using the Rangers all along to leverage better
trade offers from other clubs, knowing that Halladay would ultimately veto any
trade to Texas.  If that’s true, it
wouldn’t have made sense for Toronto to ever back down from the Holland/Smoak


The point?  The more cash Texas asks the Astros for, to reduce
its commitment to Oswalt, the more it will take in players to get him.


TEXAS MAY BE AT A DISADVANTAGE: Each of the last two years (June 18, 2008
and July 10,
), I’ve written a report pondering whether the strength of the upper
tier of the Rangers’ pre-arbitration roster depth and farm system might lead
other teams to try and hold Jon Daniels up in trade talks.  It’s still a concern.  It’s even more of an issue when it’s Houston
on the other end.  McLane lost Ryan to
the Rangers.  He may be about to lose AAA
Round Rock (and with it, conceptually, the Austin market) to the Rangers.  Houston isn’t competitive on the field right
now.  If McLane considers Texas
competition off the field, and there have long been logical suggestions that he
does, there’s zero chance he’s going to take the chance of trading Oswalt
in-state without a strong pitch from Wade that the deal is set up as a slam
dunk to favor the Astros long-term.


Along the same lines,
though, St. Louis and Atlanta aren’t exactly perfect matches, either.  You’d expect McLane and Wade would bristle at
the thought of Oswalt piching for the division-mate Cardinals for the next two
years, a team that visits Houston nine or 10 times a season and that the Astros
are obviously chasing.  (Plus, their
rotation is fairly well set right now.)  As
for the Braves, the rotation is far from their biggest need, they’ll probably have
a tough time catching Philadelphia or the Wild Card, and loading up for yet
another Mark Teixeira trade that doesn’t pay off probably isn’t the best idea.


BACK PROBLEMS: Big concern? 
Not if you’re trying to win now, as Oswalt is pitching healthy and
averaging seven innings over his last seven starts.  He’s pitched nine times this year.  All nine games have been quality starts.  But then we get back to that $29 million through
2011, and back problems usually don’t get better.  Still, if the history of injections for low back
issues were the reddest flag, it probably wouldn’t hold a deal up.


BAD MATCH: Aside from pitching, chances are Houston is most
interested in middle infield help, an area where Texas is relatively thin.  But rewind to the Halladay trade:
Philadelphia got Oakland involved in order to get the Jays the first baseman they
wanted in Wallace.  There are creative ways
to meet the other team’s needs.


Let’s assume the ownership
impediment is lifted.  Would you offer
Houston a package of Holland, righthander Blake Beavan (who is quietly having a
very good encore season at Frisco, and in fact fired eight scoreless innings [four
hits, no walks, eight strikeouts] against Houston’s Corpus Christi affiliate
last weekend, after throwing two gems against the Hooks in four starts against
them in 2009), right-handed reliever Alexi Ogando, and a top middle infield prospect
picked up for Chris Davis or Engel Beltre from a third club?


Not me. 


And probably not
Houston, either.


For all the reasons that Texas and Oswalt seem like a really
good fit, and that it would make a ton of sense for Houston to accommodate his
wish to go somewhere else for a year and a half before coming back to finish
his career where it started, accelerating a desperately needed rebuilding
process, this one appears to have a bunch of hurdles that may be too difficult
to clear.


Oh, and the Bartolo Colon reference the other day?  Two of the four players Colon was traded for
eight years ago are higher on my trade-for list right now than Roy Oswalt.





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(c) Jamey Newberg



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