Roy Oswalt is now a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Breathe easy, Phillies fans; the Fightins now have arguably the top front three rotation in the National League East and must once again be considered the favorites to win the division, if not the NL pennant.
But for some fans, the Oswalt acquisition will mean only one thing: Couldn't the Phils have just kept freakin' Cliff Lee?
The answer, obviously, is sure.
But here are four reasons the Phils are better off with Oswalt, nonetheless.
The Phillies play in an offensive paradise, and this will always be an issue for the team.
Simply put, Oswalt is a better fit for the Phils' stadium. Cliff Lee has spent his career pitching to contact in order to avoid bases on balls, and is more prone to home runs than Oswalt. In five starts at CBP last season, Lee gave up four home runs as the home team pitcher.
Oswalt, meanwhile, has allowed only one home run in four career starts at CBP, pitching to the Phillies no less.
Cliff Lee is a left-handed pitcher. Lefties are rare in baseball, but their value is also over-stated.
If the Phillies had held onto Cliff Lee for this season, then their rotation would currently consist of two righties, Roy Halladay and Joe Blanton, and three lefties–Lee, J.A. Happ, and Cole Hamels.
The vast majority of hitters in baseball are right-handed, which means a left-handed pitcher is at a disadvantage most of the time. While a successful left-hander is impressive, it isn't always useful.
If the Phillies had to contend with a bevy of left-handed lineups, then having a left-handed ace would be useful. But the strongest lefty lineup in the National League belongs to the Phillies.
Other than Joey Votto and Adrian Gonzalez, the scariest left-handed hitters in the NL are either Phillies or aren't playing on playoff contenders.
Already armed with a great right-hander in Roy Halladay and a resurgent left-hander in Cole Hamels, the Phillies are better off with a dominant righty as their third starter.
For 10 years, year-in and year-out, Roy Oswalt has been a consistent star for the Houston Astros.
Last season was the only season in which his ERA has gone above four, his strikeout-to-walk ratio has only gone below 3.00 once, and he has a 143-82 career record with a 134 career OPS+.
Cliff Lee, meanwhile, is in the middle of a great three-year stretch, but as recently as 2007 he had a 6.29 ERA. In 2006 he allowed 29 home runs, and even just last season he led the majors in hits allowed.
Oswalt has been a far more consistent pitcher during his career, and it is easier to know what to expect from him.
Cliff Lee was famously owed only $9 million more on his current contract, which ends after the 2010 season. When Ruben Amaro decided to trade Lee he cited, amongst other issues, the money involved in keeping Lee.
Now he has acquired a guy who has $16 million coming to him next season and a team option for $16 million more in 2012 that he has demanded any team looking to acquire him agree to pick up.
So what gives?
First of all, with Lee's contract ending this year, he is set to demand a huge payday in the offseason, and he will in all likelihood receive a contract similar to that given to C.C. Sabathia by the Yankees before last season.
Thus, if the Phillies were going to keep Lee, they were going to need to commit over $100 million over the next five or six years to a guy who turns 32 in August.
Second of all, the Astros are throwing in a considerable amount of money to take care of Oswalt's salary. The 'Stros are said to be kicking in $11 million to defray the cost of Oswalt's contract this year and next.
At the end of the day, that means Oswalt will only cost the Phils about $10 million dollars through 2011, which is a bargain when you consider the fact that Cliff Lee would likely have cost at least $30 million over that same period.
The Phillies have chosen to spend their money in interesting ways the last 12 months—see Jamie Moyer, Ryan Howard, and Roy Halladay. Nevertheless, from a dollars-and-cents perspective, Oswalt leaves the team in much better shape.