Astros Trade Partners: Oswalt to Rangers Just Got More Likely

According to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, the Rangers are close to completing their sale to the Greenberg-Ryan group.  He tweets that they plan to have the deal finished by midsummer.  Nolan Ryan confirms this information with a letter to the fans posted on MLB.com.

If the Rangers manage to get the sale done before the deadline, the biggest stumbling block which stands in the way of them trading for Roy Oswalt will be removed.  With their farm system, large market, and Oswalt's stated willingness to go play for them, they will instantly become one of the frontrunners to acquire the Astros ace in a push for the postseason.

David discussed some trade possibilities with Texas and other clubs a few months ago, but Oswalt's value has shot up since then after he pitched nine quality starts for a 2.66 earned run average.  He currently looks like a top tier ace again, which makes him valuable enough to bring back top prospects, even if the Astros don't pay any of his salary.

What does Texas have to offer, and what kinds of players would the Astros be interested in?

As David mentioned in his article, RHP Neftali Feliz and 1B Justin Smoak are untouchable.  Following the rise in Oswalt's value, though, it may not be impossible for the Astros to ask for prospects like LHP Martin Perez or RHP Tanner Scheppers (one of the two, not both--the Rangers aren't insane), though Texas will still be understandably hesitant to part with talent of that level.  Let's make a brief overview of some of the Rangers' best tradeable prospects.

Martin Perez (19, LHP).  One of the top pitching prospects in the Rangers' system, Perez would be the best return we could possibly hope to ask for Oswalt's contract.  David listed him as untouchable in an Oswalt deal, but things have changed since then.  If teams get into a bidding war, a prospect like Perez may be a borderline possibility, though the Rangers would probably ask the Astros to take on some of Oswalt's salary.  Perez is 19 years old in AA, and he's having a poor start to the season, but his track record is excellent.  His fastball sits in the low to mid nineties, and he has an above average curve and changeup to go with it.  He would join Jordan Lyles in AA and they would advance through the system together to become a very promising 1-2 punch by 2012.

Tanner Scheppers (23, RHP).  An older prospect at the time of his signing, Scheppers started his career at AA ball last season and is already pitching at AAA in his first full professional season.  The Rangers currently have him pitching out of the bullpen, reportedly to ease his workload up, and he will likely be moved back to a starting role before long.  He features a mid to high nineties fastball and a plus curveball, along with a raw changeup.  He does have an injury history, so there are concerns about his durability and his ability to start at the next level, but his stuff has ace potential if he can stay healthy.

Robert Ross (21, LHP).  While not as impressive as the top two pitchers on this list, Ross still has a lot of promise.  He has a plus fastball which sits in the low nineties with deception, a slider which could be a plus pitch, an average changeup, and the potential for above average to plus command down the line.  His numbers so far have been good, and he's having a nice first full pro season at low A ball.  You would certainly want another top prospect to go with him, but Ross would be an excellent lefty counterpart to Tanner Bushue at Lexington, and both could follow the Jordan Lyles path and skip high A next season.

Wilmer Font (20, RHP).  I'm not as high on Font as David was, mostly because his command has always been poor and he has yet to show any signs of improving it.  That said, he's only 20, and he certainly deserves a place on this list.  The right-hander has a plus fastball sitting in the mid-90s and a developing curve and changeup.  He has ace potential if he can refine his command and repertoire enough to meet the potential of his big right arm.

Mitch Moreland (24, 1B/OF).  Moreland is an above average hitter with above average power.  He'll draw a decent number of walks and won't strike out much, and he should be able to hit 20-25 homers annually at the big league level, but he's not the kind of high ceiling prospect who profiles to become a star.  Because of the emergence of Koby Clemens, J.D. Martinez, and Kody Hinze, I wouldn't be in favor of trading for a DH type with a ceiling that is just above average, but the Astros may think differently, so he should still be viewed as a possibility.  I suppose if the Astros think his defense will play there, maybe they would be willing to try him in right field and trade Hunter Pence for prospects, since Moreland has an above average arm.  However, Moreland will never be the defender Pence is, even though his bat profiles similarly.  Moreland is having a poor start in AAA (.704 OPS), but it appears to be BABIP-driven, as his plate discipline has been excellent and his track record is fine.

Michael Main (21, RHP).  Yet another good pitching prospect in the Rangers system, Main has a nice repertoire including an above average low-nineties fastball, plus curveball, and average changeup.  His career numbers in the minors (four seasons) are solid but unspectacular, and he's missed some time with health issues, but appears to be fine now.  I suspect the Astros would immediately promote him up to Class AA Corpus Christi were we to trade for him, and he could develop into a solid #2-3 starter.  You'd want more top prospects than just Main in a deal for Oswalt, but he'd be a nice centerpiece.

As you can see, the strength of the Rangers' system is high-upside pitching, which is what makes them a good trade partner for this deal, in my opinion.  They're ready to win this season, but none of these guys are going to be ready for the majors this year; it's plausible that they could part with one grade A- guy (like Perez) or a couple of grade B- pitchers plus grade C throw-ins to get an ace like Oswalt.

Are there any other Texas prospects you like?  How about major league players?

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