There are a lot of rumors out there that the Cardinals are not only interested in Oswalt, but that they are the “frontrunners” to get him. Oswalt has even expressed interest in playing for St. Louis, and they seem to be at the top of his wish list of places to go.
But for a number of reasons, I don’t see Oswalt ending up with in St. Louis.
5. The Offer
Jayson Stark (ESPN) has reported that the Cardinals have offered two current major league players for Oswalt and are trying to get a deal done without trading their 2009 first-round pick and top pitching prospect, Shelby Miller.
Most likely those two current major league players consist of some combination of youngsters Jon Jay, Allen Craig, and Fernando Salas.
While those players may be serviceable, the Astros are certainly looking for more talent than what the Cardinals would like to part with.
4. The Money, Part 1 (Astros)
The Cardinals are said to want the Astros to pay a significant portion of the approximately $25 million remaining on Oswalt’s contract.
That probably means the entire pro-rated amount he is still owed for 2010, a good chuck of his $16 million salary for next year, and perhaps his $2 million buyout for 2012 assuming that Oswalt drops his demand that his new team guarantees his 2012 $16 million option.
3. The Money, Part 2 (Cardinals)
The Cardinals are coming to a pivotal point when it comes to their payroll very soon. Their payroll for 2010 is already over $90 million.
For 2011 they already have over $70 million committed to 6 players: Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, Adam Wainwright, and Yadier Molina.
Pujols will be in his last year of his contract in 2011 and could be in for a record-setting payday. The Cardinals probably can’t afford to let him walk, but a $25-30 million a year deal is not out of the question. Wainwright stands to make significantly more in 2012 as well.
Basically, the Cardinals can’t afford to take on Oswalt’s salary. Even if the Astros pay half of his 2011 salary and Oswalt doesn’t demand that the Cardinals pick up his $16 option in 2012 (and those are big if’s), St. Louis would still be in a tight spot with their budget.
As much as they would love to have a 1-2-3 of Wainwright, Carpenter, and Oswalt (and let’s not forget Jaime Garcia who is in the top 5 in ERA this year), they just probably can’t afford it.
2. The Division
The Astros would probably prefer not to trade Oswalt to another team within the division. The last thing the Astros need for the next two years is to get beat by Oswalt wearing a rival uniform.
It’s just rubbing salt in the wound.
1. The Phillies
For the Cardinals, Oswalt would be the icing on the cake. They already have Wainwright and Carpenter at the top of the rotation and Jaime Garcia has been ridiculous this year. Even with Penny and Lohse on the mend, the Cardinals have put together a strong run to retake first place, and that’s with David Freese and Ryan Ludwick on the DL and Colby Rasmus banged up.
The Cardinals are going to be tough the rest of the way.
On the flip side are the Philadelphia Phillies. They have now fallen to 7 games back of the division leading Braves and are in real danger of falling out of the race if something isn’t done quickly.
Roy Halladay was supposed to come in and be the final piece the Phillies needed to get back on top. As it has turned out, he has been their only reliable pitcher. Hamels is hit and miss, Blanton has struggled, and Moyer is now hurt. The Phillies are desperate for another starter and they may have to overpay to get Oswalt.
If the Phillies and Cardinals get into a bidding war, expect the Phillies to come out on top simply because they need him more.
Sure Oswalt would rather play in St. Louis, but ultimately the decision rests with the Astros and they are going to have to do what is best for the organization.
Between offering J.A. Happ plus prospects and/or the ability for the Phillies to engage in a 3 way deal centered around Jayson Werth, I believe at some point the Cardinals will bow out and Oswalt will end up in Philadelphia.
Read more: John Mark runs a blog that covers the Cubs and the Cardinals over at TheOutfieldIvy.com