Trading Places: Roy Oswalt to Ring The Liberty Bell
The reason this deal took so long to wrap up was Oswalt's no-trade clause and the money the teams would exchange in the deal. With the Phillies need to hold onto Jayson Werth now that Shane Victorino is banged up, they didn't have the option to free up 2010 money by trading Werth. With this being the case they had to pony up some better prospects and ask for more money coming to them along with Oswalt. Roy is owed a little over $7 million on his 2010 contract and will be collecting $16 million in 2011. 2012 is where the water gets murky on what he will be receiving - he has a $16 million mutual option or a $2 million buyout. Details have not been released at this time if the Phillies are obligated to pick up that option as part of the trade.
The Phillies are obviously solidifying their rotation in hopes of a post season appearance this year, but it also keeps them from having to shop for an arm in the offseason as well. Oswalt is having a stellar year posting a 3.42 ERA with a 1.11 WHIP over 129 innings while collecting 120 strike outs. There should be only minor concern with Oswalt moving to Citizens Bank Ballpark for the remainder of the season and next year. In the four starts he has made there - and remember these were against the Phillies of course - he has pitched 27.2 innings with a 2.60 ERA and has allowed only 1 home run. The only concern the Phillies should have with Oswalt is his health. Even though he hasn't seen more than a start skipped here or there in the past few years, he has had injury problems that affect his lower back and hamstrings. Moving to an open air stadium in a part of the country that has a substantial change in weather conditions at the beginning and end of the season could make these injuries more than nagging annoyances.
What did the Astro's get in return for giving up their long-time ace? J.A. Happ saw substantial MLB time last year posting a desirable 2.93 ERA while striking out 119 in 166 innings pitched. He has battled injury issues this year and has only pitched 15.1 innings in 3 starts so far in 2010. It appears that he will be slotted into the Astros' rotation for the rest of the season going every 5 days if his health allows. His numbers probably will suffer going into Houston for a couple of reasons. Being a left handed pitcher most teams going into Houston will stack their line-up with right handed bats. Add into the equation that he gives up a lot of fly balls and Minute Maid having the Crawford Boxes short porch in left field his ERA will probably elevate quite a bit. Also going from the kind of run support the Phillies have given him, to what the Astros will give him, won't help his win totals either.
The other two players the Astros will be getting in return are outfield prospect Anthony Gose and shortstop prospect Jonathon Villar. Anthony Gose, who will turn 20 on August 10th, is the higher rated of the two prospects, sitting at number 6 overall according to Baseball America. He has tremendous speed which makes him a plus defensive outfielder and a prolific base stealer. His minor league batting average has hovered right around .260 throughout his career, but in 2009 he posted a .323 OBP and currently has a .325 OBP this year. Did I mention he steals bases, he already has 36 stolen bases at high-A ball this year and swiped 76 bags last year in low-A while being caught 20 times. Villar, who just turned 19 in May, was stationed at low-A this season where he has posted a .272 average. He is also a speedster swiping 38 bags this season and posting a .338 OBP. He was ranked in the top 20 prospects in the Phillies system by a few different sources, as high as 13 and as low as 18.
This trade accomplished what both teams involved desired. The Astros were trying to get some money off of the books for future years, as they enter into a few more seasons of rebuilding, while building up their system with young promising players. The Phillies were looking for a non-rental arm that would provide a solid number 2 to Roy Halladay. The Phillies were probably the winners overall in the deal because of the amount of money the Astros sent with Oswalt, but only time will tell how the two prospects and a promising left-hander heading to Houston will perform as Major Leaguers.
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