Billy Bob Thornton. Bob Knight. Nelly. Bill Clinton.
Recently another big name has been added to the above list. Apparently, Roy Oswalt is a Cardinals fan.
The Astros' ace has stated on numerous occasions that he'd favor a trade to the St. Louis Cardinals, and because Oswalt has a full no-trade clause, he holds all the cards.
So now it's up to St. Louis to make a move. With a farm system that has been depleted by several trades over the past few years, the Cardinals cannot afford to make a mistake here.
Cardinals fans won't soon forget how Oswalt dominated them in Game Six of the 2005 NLCS, eliminating St. Louis from the playoffs. Come October, no team would want to face a Cardinals rotation anchored by three aces in Oswalt, Chris Carpenter, and Adam Wainwright, all perennial Cy Young candidates. The road the the National League pennant would run through St. Louis. So who should and shouldn't the Cardinals move to get the Astros' ace?
On Their Way Out: Players the Cardinals Shouldn't Hesitate To Offer
Brendan Ryan: It's no secret that Brendan Ryan has struggled. Trading him could be a great move for the Cardinals. He's been batting below the Mendoza line for most of the season, and his usually stellar defense has been less than great. So, if the Astros see potential in him, let them figure it out. Ryan is already 28, so moving him would be an added bonus to acquiring Oswalt.
Fernando Salas: In the first few assignments of his career, Salas has been very good. The Cardinals could relay this into a possible trade, although he wouldn't be the centerpiece of a trade. Tony LaRussa has brought slowly worked him into higher and higher pressure, but he has continued to be effective, giving up just one earned run on a home run over 8.2 innings pitched. The Cardinals already have two young fireballers in their bullpen, so Salas is expandable.
Robert Stock, Brian Anderson, or Matt Pagnozzi: I list these three here together because they all fall into basically the same category. Three catchers, who find their path to the majors blocked by Cardinals mainstay Yadier Molina. They're all considered top prospects in the Cardinals organization, but there's not spot for them now, so they're better used as trade chips.
Daryl Jones: A year ago, I didn't want to see Daryl Jones included in a trade for a big name player. This year, things have changed. In 2008, when Jones batted .316, stole 24 bases, and hit 13 home runs, he looked like a five-tool player who could see starting time in the Cardinals outfield in the coming years. Since then, he has struggled against AAA pitching, and his batting average has dropped the past two seasons. He did bat .209 at Rookie ball in 2005, so he could just be adjusting. The Astros would jump at the chance to get him, and he wouldn't be to big of a piece for the Cardinals to give up.
Blake Hawksworth: Hawksworth has progressed well this season, and no longer has prospect status. He's filled in well for the Cardinals as a fifth starter this year, but has an ERA of nearly 5.00. If Oswalt joins the fold, Hawksworth would have to be moved to an already crowded bullpen. It would be better for the Cardinals to simply include him in a trade. He was the Cardinals top prospect in 2004, so the Astros may still see improvement left in him.
Adron Chambers: Adron Chambers is not the future of Cardinals Nation. However, he could be another team's future. His speed makes him valuable, although his defense is suspect. He's played most of his games in center field, where he has a .964 fielding percentage. He's only 23, so he has time to improve, but would likely be the third player in a three-player deal.
Deryk Hooker: If the Astros are looking for pitching help, as rumored, Hooker could be included in a deal. He currently leads all Cardinals prospects with 94 strikeouts, and put up a 2.83 ERA with a .220 average against for Quad Cities. This has been a breakout year for Hooker, who just turned 21 this June.
Daniel Descalso: Descalso is an interesting case. He appears to be a slightly better hitting Brendan Ryan, expect that Descalso plays second base. His numbers in the minors have been good. With Triple-A Memphis, he's posted a solid .357 on-base percentage, and has driven in 52 runs, putting him on pace for a career high. If the Cardinals don't move him, the 23-year old is their future at second base.
Packing Their Bags: One of These Players Could Be Moved, But Not More
Allen Craig: As the best hitting prospect the Cardinals have, Craig is a prime candidate to be moved in a deal for Oswalt. However, Craig's primary position is first base, and he's not going to play there any time soon. It's possible that he gets time in the outfield, but right now he's got a big league bat, but not enough time to show it off. He could have that opportunity with Houston, who is rumored to be moving first baseman Lance Berkman. Craig could come back to bite the Cardinals, but, if it means acquiring Oswalt, it's worth it.
Lance Lynn: He could be the centerpiece in a move for Oswalt. The Astros are said to be looking for pitching, and there may be no better option than Lynn, who was named St. Louis's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009. He currently has 90 strikeouts for Triple-A Memphis to lead the team.
Jon Jay: In two stints with the Cardinals, Jay has exceeded all expectations, with a slash line of .378/.441/.607, and he has gained more and more playing time as the season progressed. However, he'll have to come back to earth eventually, and the Cardinals could be wise to sell high here. I would miss the enthusiasm Jay brings to the team, and would hate to see him come up big for the Astros against St. Louis, but I think the Cardinals would be willing to move him, if it means the pennant.
Eduardo Sanchez: Eduardo Sanchez is listed as the Cardinals sixth best prospect by Baseball America, and for good reason. Out of the minor league bullpen, Sanchez posted a .920 WHIP in 2009, among the best in the organization. He has faltered this year in split time between Springfield and Memphis, but if the Astros want him, the Cardinals could move him with little thought.
Mitchell Boggs: As a major league ready arm, Boggs may fit the bill for Houston. He can develop into either a fourth or fifth starter, or even a closer. With a fastball in the high-90's, and a devastating slider, Boggs has put hitters away out of the St. Louis pen, posting a 1.168 WHIP while striking out 6.6 batters per nine innings. At the age of 26, he could develop into a strong closer in the Houston bullpen.
Deal Breakers: Players Who Aren't Going Anywhere
David Freese, Colby Rasmus, and Jaime Garcia: These three are the future of Cardinals Nation. Rasmus has been called, along with Andrew McCutchen, the future of center field in the National League. Garcia, who made the club out of spring training, has looked like a Rookie of the Year favorite, posting a 9-4 record with a 2.21 ERA. He looks like a future front of the line starter for St. Louis. Freese was of to a hot start before injury derailed him. It's very likely that he'll be moved in the foreseeable future, because the Cardinals don't have a suitable replacement for him at third.
Shelby Miller: He's the reason a trade hasn't gotten done yet. It appears the Astros want Miller, last year's first round draft pick, but the Cardinals are unwilling to part with him, and for good reason. Miller is only 19, but has the top rated fastball in the organization. Baseball America lists him as the Cardinals' top prospect, and he looks like he will replace Chris Carpenter within the next four years. Even if it prevent the deal from getting done, you do not trade Miller.
So can the Cardinals get Oswalt? If the Astros are willing to look past Shelby Miller, I think a deal can get done by the July 31 deadline. There may yet be another wrench thrown into the equation. If the Cardinals manage to surprise everyone by signing twelfth-round pick Austin Wilson, a top 15-pick talent that the Cardinals have been recruiting vigorously, trading Jay, Craig, or Jones would become a no-brainer.
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