It's taken me the better part of two weeks to both research and write this article. Part of the problem came when I was about three-quarters of the way to being finished. I realized at that point that trading away Roy Oswalt wouldn't give the Astros nearly the value in return that they needed for a player who is so entrenched in fan's hearts.
Why did I come to this conclusion? After all, a Justin Smoak-Neftali Feliz trade certainly would make fans forget about Roy, if not quickly. After reviewing what kinds of prospects actually got moved in the past year, I got a working model for potential trades and realized that nothing really excited me. None of the potential deals or prospects leapt back and said, "Yes, the Astros would be better after this deal."
That's the problem with trading a guy like Oswalt, though. Teams rarely get the kind of value back they would like. Just ask the Baltimore Orioles if they really thought Luke Scott would be the best player from the Tejada deal.
I got over my reluctance for these deals, though, and you might too. At the very least, this gives Ed Wade a primer if he does want to start trade negotiations. The rest of my parameters, trade scenarios in 6,000 words or less are after the jump.
In my first article on trade values, I said that I used a specific spreadsheet to calculate Oswalt's value, based on WAR and his current contract. His came out to just over 8 million, which is half of what Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee were worth. I bumped that up to 12 million because of the premium pitching has at the deadline and Oswalt's perceived value to the Astros being higher than his actual value. Much like Drayton selling the Astros, I'm assuming Wade would have to be bowled over with an offer to accept.
Since neither Halladay or Lee fetched a Top 100 prospect, I couldn't see that changing for Roy. So, I eliminated any prospect in the Top 100 aggregate list. I also narrowed down the possible trade partners.
Eliminating Pittsburgh, Washington, Toronto, San Diego and Kansas City because they didn't have a realistic shot to contend in 2010, Philadelphia, Arizona, San Francisco, Atlanta, the New York Yankees, Boston and Oakland for already having solid and deep pitching staffs, Oakland, Cleveland, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Detroit for not having enough money to take on his contract and adding the Cubs because the Astros won't trade within the division, I was left with 10 teams.
As I was going through the prospect lists and deciding what trades made sense, I realized that one of the teams in my possible group (Chicago White Sox) didn't really need more pitching after trading for Jake Peavy. Plus, their farm system is horrendous and I just didn't see a fit there. They were eliminated
As I mentioned, I aggregated all the prospects on Top 100 lists myself and came up with a score to sort them by. Of course, halfway through, this list gets released, which did what I was trying to do, but 10 times better. As if I needed another reason to be intellectually insecure...
These trades are also assuming that Team A assumes all of Oswalt's contract. The most likely scenario, however, is that the Astros pick up some portion of this year's salary and Team A works out a contract extension with Roy. This does tilt the trade value some and confirms my higher figure of Oswalt's trade value.
I tried to evaluate a team's prospect list from Houston's perspective. I have a pretty good handle on what kinds of players this front office likes, what they value and what they don't really care about. I didn't look too hard at relief prospects, catchers or outfielders and only occasionally looked at first base-types. Almost all draftees from last summer were also omitted under the assumption that Team A wouldn't want to trade them and the Astros wouldn't want to include them without more pro data. Scouting notes here were paraphrased from John Sickel's Prospect Book. I had intended to alternate between that and Baseball America, but apparently my copy has been lost in the mail. I should have it by the time I look at Berkman, but I'm not making any promises.
Lastly, a note about the prospect valuations. Definitely go check out that article at The Hardball Times which valued Victor Wang's research using a WAR-to-Salary breakdown. That's what I used to generate these trades. As a quick recap, Grade B pitchers (who are not in the Top 100) were worth 7.3 million. Grade B hitters were worth 5.5 million. Grade C pitchers under 22 were worth 2.1 million and over 23 were worth 1.5 million. Grade C hitters under 22 were worth 0.7 million and over 23 were worth 0.5 million.
I gave each team a set of odds whether a deal can get done. After looking at all the (fairly-unscientific) evidence here, I'd definitely put the chances of a deal at 20% or 5 to 1.
Why they make the deal: The Mariners already have a great twosome in Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee. However, Lee is a free agent after the season and has expressed zero interest in getting a deal done prior to next winter. By trading for Oswalt (who's already under contract for two more seasons), the Mariners give themselves a great 1-2-3 in the rotation and set themselves up to cushion the blow of losing Lee. If Lee goes elsewhere, Oswalt then slots into the rotation behind Hernandez until some of Seattle's other prospects are ready to go.
Who's not here: Of course, the dream scenario is the Mariners agreeing to trade Dustin Ackley, thus shoring up the Astros second base spot for the next decade. That's not happening, especially for a guy like Oswalt, who'd essentially be their No. 3 starter in 2010.
Jewel to the trade: RHP Michael Pineda
Intriguing throw-ins: SS Nick Franklin, RHP Kaneoke Texeira, 3B Mario Martinez
Best Fit: Franklin and Pineda together get this deal done, but it may not seem like enough value to the fans. Thus, I could see a Pineda, Texeira, Martinez deal. In any situation, Pineda has to be at the top. Franklin is a nice player, but doesn't have enough value on his own to get a deal done.
Chances of a deal: 100 to 1
Why they make the deal: If the Twins are contending, have already locked up Mauer and are making good money in newly minted Target Field, they could definitely look for a little rotation help down the stretch. The Twins haven't been known for making these kinds of pickups in the past, but there's a first time for everything.
Who's not here: OF Aaron Hicks, OF Ben Revere, C Wilson Ramos, 3B Danny Valencia- The two outfielders are both B to B+ guys. Couple that with the Astros non-need for outfield prospects and they're not getting in any trade with Houston. Ramos was listed as a B- guy but is a catcher and I automatically nixed all backstops. Valencia should be the Twins starting third baseman this season, so he probably wouldn't be included in a trade.
Jewel to the trade: RHP Billy Bullock; RHP Adrian Salcedo
Intriguing throw-ins: OF Rene Tosoni; 3B Luke Hughes; RHP BJ Hermsen; RHP Tom Stuifbergen
Best Fit: I like Salcedo more than Bullock here. Aaron Gleeman listed Bullock at 10 and Salcedo at 13, but Bullock is a reliever and should stick there. The best-case scenario is a deal around Salcedo, Luke Hughes and BJ Hermsen. Hughes gives the Astros a prospect at the hot corner and is blocked by Valencia in Minnesota. Hermsen is young and hasn't played much due to a broken collarbone after he was drafted in 2008. He's a 'control artist' according to Sickels and was listed as the No. 18 prospect by Gleeman. This trade would be about upside, not immediate impact, but I doubt it gets done.
Chances of a deal: 100 to 1
Why they make the deal: Florida is a young team that could use Oswalt's fiery leadership in their rotation. The Marlins are also moving into a new stadium soon and have been smacked down by MLB and told to spend more money. If they are keeping pace with the Phillies and Braves in June, they could add a piece like Oswalt to get them to the postseason for the first time since they won the World Series in 2003.
Who's not here: 3B Matt Dominguez, OF Mike Stanton, 1B Logan Morrison, RHP Chad James - All these guys are in the Top 100 prospects. Dominguez was actually targeted by the Astros in the 2007 draft, but never had a chance of falling to them in the second round.
Jewel to the trade: RHP Ryan Tucker
Intriguing throw-ins: 3B Jake Smolinksi; LHP Jay Voss; OF Marquis Cooper; RHP Josh Hodges; OF Bryan Peterson
Best Fit: The rare Grade B pitcher who didn't make the Top 100, Tucker is the lone centerpiece to this trade. With experience in the majors and at Triple-A, injuries cut his 2009 season short. I could see Tucker having a Kyle Drabek-type bounce in 2010, becoming a close, viable trade candidate. Smolinski gets the nod here because of his play at third while Voss and Hodges are a toss-up for the third spot in this trade. There's not a lot of value here, since both of the two possible pitcher inclusions are over 23. Still, a Tucker-Smolinski-Hodges-Voss deal gives the Astros quantity if it's lacking in quality.
Chances of a deal: 100 to 1
The Top Six
Why they make the deal: The Dodgers need pitching. They lost in the NLCS mainly because they didn't have the pitchers to match up with Phildelphia. When Vincente Padilla is prominently involved in the playoffs, bad things happen. Plus, the Dodgers play in a huge market, so they definitely have the money to take on a guy like Oswalt. GM Ned Coletti has a fondness for veterans too and I have a feeling Joe Torre would get favorable scouting reports on Oswalt from former players of his. Still, the McCourt Divorce case hangs over everything. The Dodgers were not nearly as active in free agency as pundits expected and many pointed to these proceedings as the reason.
Would Oswalt Waive the No-Trade: I don't really have a sense whether he would or wouldn't here. It's a pretty good move for him from Weir to the left coast. At the same time, he'd be slotting into a team with veterans and a player-friendly manager in Torre. He'd also be pitching in a very pitcher-friendly park, which could give him the late-career numbers he needs to make a Hall of Fame case.
Who's not here: RHP Chris Withrow, SS Dee Gordon, RHP Ethan Martin - All three made Top 100 lists, with Martin just sneaking onto the tail end of them. The Dodgers do have a couple catcher prospects too that were left off this list (see Castro, Jason).
Jewel to the trade: RHP Josh Lindblom, SS Ivan DeJesus - A reliever and a defense-first shortstop is all the Dodgers could muster to be their jewels. You may recognize Lindblom's name. The Astros drafted him in the third round of the 2005 draft but couldn't sign him. He went to Purdue and was a second-round pick of the Dodgers in 2008. Unfortunately, Lindblom's grade is based on his chance to make a quick impact as a reliever, where he looks to fit best in the majors. DeJesus could easily slot into second and has gap power, but missed all of 2009 with a broken leg and is short of star potential. Like Jason Castro, his floor is a serviceable every-day player, but his ceiling isn't very high.
Intriguing throw-ins: RHP Allan Webster, RHP Kenley Jansen, RHP Jon Michael Redding, OF Jonathan Garcia - The guy I like most here is Webster, who has a good fastball (90-95 MPH) with decent offspeed stuff. He needs to work on his command, but gets a fair amount of ground balls and is young after being drafted out of high school in 2008.
The Deal I Like Best: Dodgers send Josh Lindblom, Ivan DeJesus and Jonathan Garcia. This isn't saying much. This deal gives the Astros some immediate impact with DeJesus, some long-term bullpen help with Lindblom and an intriguing toolsy outfielder in Garcia. What it lacks in upside, it delivers in solid major league potential, with Garcia being the lone guy (at 18 years old) to have much room to grow.
The Deal I Hate (b/c It Could Happen): Dodgers send Lindblom, LHP Cole St. Clair and 3B Pedro Baez - Ugh. On the surface, this fits many needs, but Baez is more tools than production right now and St. Clair has a long injury history. The scouts might love this trade but I could see the Astros getting zero value out of a deal like this.
Chances it Happens: 10 to 1
Why they make the deal: The Orioles are in the same position the Marlins are. They have a young pitching staff with a team that could, possibly, maybe surprise in 2010. Baltimore has also been fascinated by Oswalt in the past and definitely would check in if he's available. Now, that doesn't mean they'd be serious, but a guy like Oswalt holding down their rotation while Wieters, Reimold and Co. bolster the offense could lead them to a possible wild card berth.
Would Oswalt Waive the No-Trade: Probably not. The only reason I see Oswalt approving this trade is if Baltimore is in first place when it's agreed-upon and if his competitive fires make him want to test himself in the gauntlet that is the AL East.
Who's not here: 3B Josh Bell, LHP Brian Matusz - Bell has a chance to unseat Miguel Tejada this season, but is definitely the long-term answer at third for Baltimore. Matusz made his major league debut in 2009 and is one of the Top 10 pitching prospects in the game. Neither get close to being included in this deal.
Jewel to the trade: RHP Jake Arrieta, RHP Brandon Erbe, 1B Brandon Snyder - I have a friend who's a long-time Orioles fan from back when the Robinson Boys were winning the World Series. I asked him about these three guys and he had no clue who they were. In fact, he thought they might have been students who had come by our office. Not a great sign, but I still like what Arrieta, Erbe and Snyder bring at the top of this deal. Arrieta has a great fastball, solid offspeed pitches and profiles as a power pitcher. He could pitch anywhere from the second to the fourth spot in the rotation and made it to Triple-A in 2009. Granted, he struggled when he was there, but still kept his ERA under 4. Erbe has some daunting injury concerns, but definitely has the stuff to become a top of the rotation starter. I definitely think he has the potential to become like Kyle Drabek was last season: an oft-injured pitcher who comes back and dominates with his stuff, raising him into elite prospect status. Snyder has good power potential and gives the Astros a player who could be ready in a hurry if Lance Berkman doesn't stay past the end of his contract.
Intriguing throw-ins: RHP Kam Mickoio, RHP Brandon Cooney, RHP Luis Lebron, 1B/3B Brandon Waring - The guy I like here is Mickolio. With major league experience in each of the past two seasons, Mickolio brings a ready arm in a deal. Plus, his biggest problems aren't his stuff (his fastball clocks in from 93-97 MPH) but lie in his control. He's the perfect guy for Brad Arnsberg to get and see if he can turn around.
The Deal I Like Best: Baltimore sends RHP Jake Arrieta, RHP Kam Mickolio and 1B/3B Brandon Waring - I'm already breaking one of my rules. Arrieta is in the bottom quarter of the Top 100 list, but some injury concerns and his struggles at Triple-A could easily make him the centerpiece of this deal. I mentioned why I liked Mickolio but Waring is also intriguing. He probably won't stick at third due to problems with his range, but he's got a dependable glove that would be a plus at first. His bat doesn't proflie as a typical slugging first baseman, but he could provide good depth and a solid bat off the bench at worst.
The Deal I Hate (b/c It Could Happen): RHP Brandon Erbe, RHP Oliver Drake and 1B Brandon Snyder - Both Erbe and Drake are huge injury risks, which is why I don't like them in this deal. I also don't like the idea of headlining a trade with a first base prospect. Unless they are an elite hitter, like Mark Teixeira, it's too easy to find good first basemen. Look at a guy like JD Martinez. The Astros drafted him with little fanfare and he hit at every stop he made last summer. This isn't a bad trade, it just has too much potential to blow up.
Chances it Happens:15 to 1
Why they make the deal: There is a lot to like here. The Rangers and Astros have a history of getting deals done (see Rodriguez, Ivan) and the fact that they play in different leagues makes losing Oswalt sting a little less. Having the best two Astro pitchers of the past 30 years both leave for Arlington, though? That would hurt just a bit. There is no telling what could happen in the AL West this season, but if the Rangers want to compete with Seattle, they probably need to upgrade their rotation. Oswalt definitely provides that in a hurry and would probably slot into the second spot in their rotation. He could mentor some of the younger pitchers that the Rangers are bringing up.
Would Oswalt Waive the No-Trade: I'd say the possibility is good. He's already got a familiarity with Nolan Ryan, the in-state move means he isn't any further from his home in Mississippi and he's still in a state with no income tax. If the Rangers are in contention, he'd have to think long and hard about approving.
Who's not here: 1B Justin Smoak, RHP Neftali Feliz, LHP Martin Perez, RHP Tanner Scheppers - The only guy on this list that has a chance of getting included is Scheppers. The thing that made me hesitate is he was drafted very recently and spent a year in independent ball. As much as you'd like to get a guy like Smoak, the Rangers would never trade him away with a glaring need at the DH/1B spot.
Jewel to the trade: RHP Wilmer Font, RHP Michael Main, 1B/OF Mitch Moreland, LHP Robbie Ross - The best of the group here is Font. A hard-throwing Venezuelan can hit 100 MPH at times and still profiles as a starter. With some tweaks to his command, he could be one of the best prospects in baseball. Main took a mulligan in 2009 due to an infected liver, but that's the extent of his injury concerns. Main is another hard thrower who has a solid repertoire. Moreland has a great bat combined with low strikeout totals. He's older for a prospect at 24, but could easily get to the majors in 2010 with an injury to Berkman or Lee. Ross is an undersized lefty who can throw with some power. He combines a high strikeout rate with a high ground ball rate. The Astros don't shy away from smaller pitchers, but some injury concerns lessen his value.
Intriguing throw-ins: 3B Tommy Mendonca, LHP Richard Bleier, RHP Guillermo Moscoso, OF Craig Gentry, RHP Carlos Pimental, RHP Brandon Tullis, RHP Joe Wieland - The guy that stands out here is Mendonca. You may remember him from the 2008 College World Series with Fresno State. Scouts haven't been high on him due to some a big swing and a high strikeout rate. Still, he has huge power potential and should be a solid third baseman. Worst case scenario is he turns into a poor man's Troy Glaus.
The Deal I Like Best: Texas sends RHP Wilmer Font, 1B/OF Mitch Moreland and 3B Tommy Mendonca - In one fell swoop, the Astros line up Berkman's replacment, Oswalt's replacement and a starting third baseman for five to ten years. That's not a bad trade in the scheme of things. Of course, all three are a bit away from seeing the majors, but they provide good value at spots where Houston needs it.
The Deal I Hate (b/c It Could Happen): LHP Kasey Kiker, RHP Kennil Gomez and OF Craig Gentry - I left Kiker off the list of Jewels even though he's listed as a Grade B-. His floor is as a power LOOGY and he fits better as a reliever. Oh, consistency and command are also two of his weaknesses. To say he's less than a thrilling headliner is an understatement. Gentry is a fourth outfielder at best and Gomez has injury troubles. Not a good haul for Oswalt, even if it shows up that way on paper.
Why they make the deal: The Angels seemingly have the best rotation of any team on this list. The problem is that Jered Weaver, Earvin Santana and Scott Kazmir are all injury risks while Joe Saunders may regress in 2010. I've already mentioned how hyper-competitive the AL West could be this season. If one of those four guys either bombs or gets hurt, the Angels could be pressured to make a deal for a guy like Oswalt. Owner Arte Moreno certainly hasn't shied away from signing off on deadline deals (Mark Teixeira, Kazmir). It would also keep a team like Seattle or Texas from adding him.
Would Oswalt Waive the No-Trade: Again, I'm not sure how he'd react to a West Coast team. He'd definitely have a good shot to make the playoffs, which would be important to him in any trade. He'd be far from home, but could also probably get another long-term deal from LA. At this point, it's a tossup whether he says yes.
Who's not here: OF Mike Trout, C Hank Conger, OF Randal Grichuk - The interesting thing about the Angels system is there's not a lot of top-end talent and those guys are all outfielders. That works out in these scenarios because catcher and outfield are two positions I think the Astros pass on. The Angels do have some interesting pitchers but none in the Top 100. All in all, this was the easiest list to cull.
Jewel to the trade: LHP Trevor Reckling, RHP Garrett Richards, RHP Jon Bachanov - The key here is Reckling. When I asked Project Prospect's Adam Foster for his opinion on three guys (Reckling, Brignac, Font) and who had the best long-term potential, he said he didn't love any of them, but that Reckling probably topped that group. A cold-weather high school pick in 2007, the soon-to-be 21-year old doesn't throw hard (87-92 MPH on fastball) but has good movement with two plus offspeed pitches in his change and slider. He had a high walk rate in Double-A but has an equally high ground ball rate. Richards is a projection guy. If you squint really hard and ignore his stats in college at Oklahoma, there could be a good pticher there. His fastball sits in the mid-90's with a plus slider and a nasty curve, according to Sickels. Richards just needs more time in the minors to solidify his place as a great prospect. Bachanov is a recent Tommy John recoveree but is back to throwing 92-94 with some sink. He didn't show much rust from his year layoff but was just pitching in rookie ball last season. Another possible Drabek situation.
Intriguing throw-ins: 2B Alexia Amarista, 1B Dillon Baird, RHP Trevor Bell, RHP Ryan Chaffee, RHP Pil Joon Jang, RHP Michael Kohn, 2B Jean Segura, LHP Will Smith, LHP Andrew Taylor - Two of my favorites from this group were Amarista and Chaffee. Amarista won the Midwestern League batting title in 2009, hitting .319/.390/.468 in 477 at-bats. Strong plate discipline? Check (61 strikeouts to 50 walks). Little bit of pop? Check (53 XBH). Solid defense? Check. The only knock on him is size; at 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, many teams would have concerns, but I don't see that with the Astros. Chaffee has a good sinking fastball that generates both a ton of strikeouts and a ton of ground balls. His walk rate is a bit high, but his potential ceiling is higher than most guys you'll find in this section.
The Deal I Like Best: As you might guess, it's the Angels sending LHP Trevor Reckling, 2B Alexia Amarista and RHP Ryan Chaffee. The Astros get two possible starters for the rotation with Reckling possibly making the majors this season. Amarista is young but gives the Astros another exciting middle infielder and could partner with Mier in High A ball at some point to form a great defensive tandem.
The Deal I Hate (b/c It Could Happen): RHP Fabio Martinez-Mesa, RHP Chris Scholl and 2B Freddy Sandoval - There is a reason I didn't list Martinez-Mesa as a Jewel, even though he's a Grade B- guy. He's young, he has command problems and hasn't pitched above Rookie ball. As the key part of a trade, there are way too many question marks around him. Scholl not only has command issues, but is a middle reliever on top of that. Sandoval is older but probably big-league ready. He isn't a great player and may be along the Eric Brunlett-type roll; not a starter but a useful bench guy. That's not what you want to say about one of the three guys you get back for Roy Oswalt. That's how Frank Robinson-for-Milt Pappas or Larry Anderson-for-Jeff Bagwell happened.
Chances it Happens: 15 to 1
Why they make the deal: Their rotation behind Johan Santana is pretty sparse. Mike Pelfrey is probably better suited to being the third- or fourth-best starter on a team. Oswalt would slot in nicely and give the Mets some solid depth to make a playoff push. However, with Carlos Beltran out for a couple months, the Mets will need Jose Reyes and David Wright to step up big-time in order to contend. I'm not sold that the Mets could contend in time to pick up Oswalt. Still, they have the pockets to take on his contract and have more prospect depth than before. Maybe the Astros can make this deal before Omar Minaya gets fired.
Would Oswalt Waive the No-Trade: Probably Not. I could see him letting his competitive spirit win him over to pitching in the Big Apple. Unless the Mets are in the playoff race, I don't see our boy from Weir, Mississippi wanting to put up with New York.
Who's not here: OF Fernando Martinez, SS Wilmer Flores, RHP Jenrry Mejia - Martinez doesn't get moved for two reasons. First, the Mets have a big interest in keeping him and a need in their outfield. Second, if they'd be willing to trade him, it's because he hasn't panned out (see: Elijah Dukes or Lastings Milledge. The other two are both Grade B+ players and appear in the Top 100 prospects. I'm not sure either would be great cornerstones for this trade in any case.
Jewels to the trade: RHP Jeurys Familia, SS Reese Havens, LHP Jon Niese - Here's a quick summary on what SIckels wrote about the three. Familia is listed as a sleeper and was third in ERA in the South Atlantic League's at age 19. His fastball isn't impressive, but he gets groundballs consistently and could break out as the season goes along. Havens was a first round pick in 2008 out of the University of South Carolina. He's flown through the system, is better suited for third in the long-term and has good power. Injuries have held him back so far. Niese made the majors in 2009 and is one of those 'proven' arms that sometimes headline trades. He doesn't have a great ceiling but could be a serviceable fourth starter for a few seasons.
Intriguing throw-ins: SS Shawn Bowman, LHP Robert Carson, 1B Lucas Duda, RHP Dillon Gee, 3B Zach Lutz, RHP Scott Moviel, LHP ERic Niesen, OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis, RHP Josh Stoner, INF Ruben Tejada - My favorite guys from this group are Carson (21, mid-90's FB, needs better control, good GB rate), Nieuwenhuis (third round 2008, good power/speed combo, strikeouts problematic, can stick in RF) and Tejada (good contact hitter, not much pop, great glove, easily play 2B).
The Deal I Like Best: Mets send Jeurys Familia, Reese Havens and Ruben Tejada - This is exactly the kind of deal that can grow on me. Between Havens and Tejada, the Astros will have locked up two of the four infield positions for the next decade. Add in Jiovanni Mier and Jason Castro...that's a very solid infield. With that group, you could sign some Adam Dunn-clone to play first and not lose anything. Familia has the chance to be a middle of the rotation starter if he develops and is the same kind of gamble the Rangers took with Neftali Feliz in the Texeira deal.
The Deal I Hate (b/c It Could Happen): Mets send Jon Niese, Reese Havens and Tobi Stoner - Nothing against Niese or Stoner, but this is a trade of pitchers who are ready now instead of the best prospects. Niese is solid and would slot into the back of Houston's rotation for four or five years. Stoner could take over the spot start/long relief role from Brian Moehler. It's definitely believeble, but I have to think that if Wade moves Oswalt, he wants value over short-term MLB impact.
Chances of a deal: 5-to-1.
Why they make the deal: This is the trickiest trade partner to forecast. On the surface, there is little chance that the Rays take on a big money deal. Owner Stuart Sternberg recently announced that the payroll will be drastically reduced after this season, when Carl Crawford, Pat Burrell and others come off the books. However, the presence of Gerry Hunsicker in the front office gives them a sneaky chance. Add to that a very young rotation that could use a veteran presence and a trade means that the Rays straddle the line between Top Six and Sleeper.
Would Oswalt Waive the No-Trade: Again, the familiarity with Hunsicker and recent success both point to a yes from Oswalt. Tampa is also as close to his home in Weir as Houston, so that wouldn't stand as an impediment. All in all, I think it's a favorable situation for him from a competitive and family standpoint.
Who's not here: RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Wade Davis, SS Tim Beckham, OF Desmond Jennings - The top two pitchers in the Rays system should see significant major league time in 2010 and are not getting moved. Jennings is slated to take over for Crawford in left starting next season and is untouchable. Beckham was my hardest omission. From the way the Astros scout Georgia, I could see them having very positive reports on him. Look not further than the Astros drafting Beckham's former teammate Telvin Nash last season. However, the PR nature of trading a former No. 1 overall pick is too great to throw him into this mix, even if his prospect star is a little tarnished right now.
Jewel to the trade: RHP Nick Barnese, SS Reid Brignac, RHP Alexander Colome, LHP Mark Moore, RHP Wilking Rodriguez - This is easily the most extensive Jewel section of all. There are high-upside arms littered through the Tampa Bay system. Moore is a Top 100 guy with excellent strikeout potential but erratic command. Barnese has some minor injury concerns but already has two ML-ready pitches in his fastball and change. If he develops his slider a bit more, he's a solid No. 3 starter. Brignac has been stuck in Triple-A behind guys like Evan Longoria, Josh Bartlett and The Zorilla. He brings a solid glove to the shortstop position with a bat that could hold up while not being spectacular. Basically, he's Manzella with a slightly better bat and glove. Colome and Rodriguez both have live arms but command issues are holding them back currently. They also are both young and haven't played outside short season ball, meaning their future potential is the most volatile.
Intriguing throw-ins: 1B Jeff Malm, RHP Jason McEachern, LHP Jake McGee, LHP David Newmann, OF Fernando Perez, RHP Aneury Rodriguez, 3B Matthew Sweeney - The Rays have a very deep farm system, so the options here are many. I won't run down all of these names but two that I find intriguing are Malm and McGee. Malm is a big high school draftee who has really great power potential but has a Jaff Decker-type body (read: bad). He's young enough with a high enough ceiling to stash in the minors for a couple years and see how he develops. If he comes through, we have a great option at first by 2013 or 2014. McGee is coming off Tommy John surgery and reminds me the most of Kyle Drabek. Both were considered great prospects before the injury but have fallen off many radars since. If he can prove he's healthy, he becomes a linchpin to any Oswalt trade. Note I also added Newmann, who's intriguing simply because he's an Aggie and I saw him pitch on multiple occasions. He's more ML-ready than the other guys in this section, but doesn't have the upside of someone like McGee.
The Deal I Like Best: Tampa Bay sends SS Reid Brignac, LHP Jacob McGee and LHP David Newmann - Again, I like Newmann because of his Aggie ties, but this fits three key needs for Houston. Brignac shores up either second or third base for Houston and could even play shortstop until Mier is ready if Manzella fails. McGee gives them a high-upside arm while Newmann many not have the same ceiling but has a higher floor. Plus, both pitchers are lefties, giving the Astros some real value there.
The Deal I Hate (b/c It Could Happen): Tampa Bay sends RHP Matt Moore, OF Fernando Perez and 3B Matthew Sweeney - This trade hinges on Moore coming through and becoming a top of the rotation guy. Outside of him, there's simply not any value here. Yes, it makes sense from our valuation, but the Astros would only be getting one player with a chance to make an impact. In fact, they'd be basically replacing Oswalt's production with the potential production of Moore. When you're trading a guy like Oswalt, you want to get more value than that in order to fill multiple needs. I just don't see that in this trade.
Chances it Happens: 20 to 1
The Top Five Packages
5) Mets send RHP Jeurys Familia, SS Reese Havens and INF Ruben Tejada
4) Tampa Bay sends SS Reid Brignac, LHP Jacob McGee and LHP David Newmann
3) Texas sends RHP Wilmer Font, 1B/OF Mitch Moreland and 3B Tommy Mendonca
2) Baltimore sends RHP Jake Arrieta, RHP Kam Mickolio and 1B/3B Brandon Waring
1) Angels send LHP Trevor Reckling, 2B Alexia Amarista and RHP Ryan Chaffee
Overall impressions: When I got down to six teams with a real shot at Roy and only two or three of those having a viable chance at landing him, I was a little disappointed. After all, shouldn't there be a bigger market for him? As I thought more about it, however, I realized that this is a pretty realistic scenario. While most reports early on in trade negotiations talk about 'ten teams are interested,' that doesn't explain levels of interest. Sure, I bet the Braves check in on Oswalt, but I bet they don't go any further than that. No, realistically, most trades end up with two or three teams in the end making pitches and trying to get a deal done. Which makes me feel a bit better about my analysis here.
All of these trades would give Houston solid value in return for a guy who could become the winningest pitcher in Astros history this season. After doing all this analysis, I realized what I touched on at the top: this is a zero-sum game. With Oswalt's contract, his performance level the past couple seasons and what teams are willing to give up in trades, the Astros probably wouldn't get what fans hope for in return. I was also left feeling that this whole exercise may have been for naught. I mean, my methods were solid, but I really don't know for sure whether teams would include Top 100 guys, do I? I'm not making calls around to other front offices, nor do we really know which teams will need pitching down the stretch. What this really does is give fans a glimpse at what life without Oswalt might bring. Hopefully, the Astros contend in 2010 and this never comes up.