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Revisiting The Oswalt Trade

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Does Brett Wallace have more value to the Astros than Roy Oswalt would have?
Does Brett Wallace have more value to the Astros than Roy Oswalt would have?

Doing the valuation column on the entire team the other day made me wonder how the Roy Oswalt trade would look right now.

The original intent of that trade value calculator was to see how much a player might be worth in a trade. It works better for players like Oswalt, who have a proven track record and are coming to the end of a contract. As we discussed, it's a little more problematic when it comes to younger, longer-term players.

At any rate, I thought it'd be interesting to look back at the three players who came to Houston, if Roy's value had changed any and if your impressions of the trade have improved.

First of all, what was Roy worth? When I did much of my work on his 2010 season's trade value, I had him pegged for 8 million in surplus trade value. That seemed low for a pitcher of his caliber, so I bumped him up to 12 million for those purposes. 

Turns out, that figure wasn't too far off. Looking at his 2010 season and projecting out the next two shows that Oswalt should be worth about 12-14 million. Of course, that assumes he produces at a similar rate for the next two seasons. To not add too much revisionist history to the mix, let's assume the low end to that number and say he was worth about 12 million in surplus value.

What did the Astros get? Brett Wallace was a Top 100 hitter when he got traded. Even if we lower him down a bit for subpar performance in the big leagues, he's still worth 12-19 million to the Astros, assuming he earns at least 6.0 WAR over the next six seasons. J.A. Happ will be worth about 17.3 million, according to those WAR breakdowns (given a peak WAR of 2.0 for two seasons with 1.5 WAR bookends this year and in 2014). Now, Jonathan Villar made the Top 100 prospect list, giving him a value of 12.5 million.

That's a lot of value added comparative to Oswalt's value. Of course, it's all relative. For the Phillies, upgrading from Happ or Blanton to Oswalt in their rotation was worth quite a bit more, since they were heading into the playoffs. In the short term, Houston traded a potential 4.0 WAR season in 2011 for two players who many only combine for 2.5 WAR. That's a loss any way you look at it.

We have to take a longer view here, though, which is why the surplus value comes out so much in favor of Houston. All those extra years of team control give Houston a ton of value they simply didn't have any more with Oswalt. Even if Wallace doesn't pan out, he's still going to be more valuable at 6 WAR and about 3-4 million in total salary than Oswalt's 8 WAR and 31 million.

Trade winners and losers aren't about values, ultimately. It's about adding a star player to replace your departing ace. I don't think the Astros did that. Even Villar, who I like, doesn't look like he'll be the next Omar Vizquel, but he could be a very solid player. Was it worth giving up Oswalt if we didn't get a potential 5.0 WAR player down the road?