Where will Oswalt wind up?
First and foremost, Roy Oswalt wants to be dealt to a winner. He doesn’t want any part of a team in last place — New York Mets — or a younger up-and-coming club that likely won’t contend for a year or two. Oswalt feels he’s running out of time and he wants to win. Now.
So where will he wind up after asking last week the Astros trade him? Oswalt is in the fourth year of a five-year, $73-million contract that is paying him $15 this year and will pay $16 million next year. That’s a lot of money and a sum that few teams will be able to take on. Finding a team in contention, that can afford that money and has the prospects the Astros want to trade for will make it that much more difficult.
The Atlanta Braves are an interesting option. They began the year with an $84 million payroll and are 3 1/2 games behind the Phillies in the NL East. The Braves have some great young players in Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson and Brian McCann and some veterans like Chipper Jones who are vying for one more ring. They also have a strong farm system and would be able to pony up some prospects, not to mention it’s close to Oswalt’s home in Mississippi.
The St. Louis Cardinals, currently tied for the NL Central lead with Cincinnati, certainly won’t sit tight if they’re in trouble of making the playoffs and would love to add Oswalt to a rotation that already includes Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. But would the Astros be willing to trade Oswalt within in the division? That’s risky.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres are interesting options on the West Coast, but the Dodgers’ unstable ownership situation clouds things. Can either team afford Oswalt’s salary at this point? The Minnesota Twins might have some interest, but their payroll already took a huge jump this year with the signing of Joe Mauer, and I really can’t see Oswalt pitching in Minnesota.
Perhaps the first-place Cincinnati Reds will trade for him just so they don’t have to face him anymore.
And now for the giant elephant in the room. What about the Texas Rangers? That would seem to be the best fit. The Rangers’ Minor League system is loaded, they are in first place, Oswalt would be reuinted with Nolan Ryan and it would allow him to stay relatively close to home. But…
The Rangers’ ownership situation remains unstable, and pitching in the heat of the summer sun in Arlington is sure to take its toll. Besides, remember how unpopular it was the last time the Astros allowed an ace pitcher to go to the Rangers (Nolan Ryan in 1989)?
The bottom line is trading Oswalt isn’t going to be easy, but it’s almost a necessity at this point for the club. The team has acknowledged he wants a trade and Oswalt has said he wants to play for a winner. Now it’s just a matter of where and when.