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Roy Oswalt and the Trade Market

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After Roy Oswalt's dazzling performance in Thursday's game, many people were speculating that it might've been his last start at Minute Maid Park. If so, what a memorable outing. But, that opinion begs the question, just where are we on trading Oswalt? Are we any closer? Has his value changed much with his performance of late? Which teams are interested? Astros County tried his hand at it this morning, focusing on Roy's value to the Rays.

First, his value has improved. Back when I speculated on his worth for this Trade Value column, I said he wasn't quite worth 12 million in value due to his contract and performance level, but I never expected him to be that good. Adjusting his WAR estimate up to 5.0, we get his value at 13.3 million. That's without any inflation based on his status as a former All-Star and World Series-playing, tractor-driving baseball name. That alone will up his value in many teams' minds and they will likely have to pay a premium over what his trade value should be. That means, his value could easily be north of 15 million. 

I should also give you a second estimate. That first is based on Oswalt's contract option being declined and adding his 2 million dollar buyout to his last year of salary. If you plug in a third year onto his contract at a WAR total of 4.0, his value comes out to 17.7 million. Round up for his reputation premium and you get about 20 million in player worth. That range of 15-20 million will get you a pretty good package of players and a much better package than I had hoped for when I originally penned that piece. 

That value could net a couple top prospects. It could easily get a Top 100 pitcher and possibly a Type B position player, which is why it's smart of the Astros to be asking for two Type A prospects. This is a negotiation, after all, and if you want a certain package, you must be prepared to act like you'll hold out for more. That's the only way you'll get the other team to raise it's offer. I'm no negotiator, but I get that strategy and I can understand why Ed Wade is taking this stance publicly.

I can also understand why rival GMs are popping off to the national press about his contract. Look, they want this player but they don't want to pay his freight. For instance, if I were to lower his salary figure for the next two seasons by 10 million dollars each year, his value to the franchise goes up dollar-for-dollar. That means his value could increase from 17 million to 37 million in a heartbeat. At that point, we're talking Top 50 hitters (plural) in any deal. So, yes, it makes more sense for a team to trade away top position players for Oswalt if the Astros pick up some of his contract. It does not, however, drop his value enough to exclude top guys if the Astros pay no part of his future salary.

That's why you see every article with either a Wade quote saying, "We're still feeling out a market," or a columnist saying, "The Astros are asking for the moon with Oswalt." These are tactics, not signs that the market is being mismanaged. Teams will pay a premium for Oswalt because he's pitching like a true ace this season and will probably continue to pitch at a high level for the life of his contract.

Which teams may be interested in him? Brian McTaggart noted that four teams had scouts at MMP on Thursday. The Mets and the Dodgers both have series coming up against the Astros and may have just been doing some advanced scouting. The Twins, Rays and Phillies could be looking to make a deal. I've long held that Gerry Hunsicker could be a big reason why the Rays stay in this hunt. It could also be a reason why they refuse to pay top-dollar for Cliff Lee, even though he'd be cheaper than Oswalt. The Twins are an intriguing choice and have some nice pitching in their system to return in a trade. The Phillies aren't barren, but wouldn't make the idea trading partners, unless they put Domonic Brown in play.

What about the Rangers, you ask? After all, as we've noted before, the framework for a deal may already be in place. This sale is going to be hard to wrap up before the trading deadline. It looks very much like the team will be sold at auction, in a controlled process, with the winning bid needing to beat the Greenberg Group's offer by at least 15-20 million. Since Greenberg has already bought up a lot of the parking around the stadium , that too is a point in their favor. It looks like Greenberg and Ryan may be the next owners, but not soon enough to compete for Roy Oswalt. 

Where does that leave us? Probably in a wait and see pattern. I'm sure the Astros will be wanting to get the best possible deal and it makes sense to hold onto Roy until closer to the deadline. That way, they can drum up interest in him to rival Cliff Lee, who may well be dealt before the deadline. At any rate, don't expect any imminent deals, but with his trade value rising, don't be surprised to see Oswalt playing with another team by August.