Yesterday, I noted Roy Oswalt‘s trade request and said I wouldn’t really be digging into it because the Dodgers have no chance of being able to afford him – and because the team is in first place, so we have more fun things to focus on. I still believe that, but based on the comments to that post and on Twitter, it seems people are interested in the topic. So, just to make it clear, let’s go into exactly why Oswalt won’t be headed to Los Angeles.
ESPN’s Buster Olney outlined four reasons why it’s going to be difficult for any team to acquire Oswalt this morning. But we don’t care about other teams, so let’s take those reasons and apply them to the Dodgers’ situation.
• Hurdle No. 1: He makes a lot of money. Oswalt is owed about $29 million between now and the end of the 2011 season.
That’d be a tough pill to swallow for a majority of the teams in baseball, but it should basically end the conversation when it comes to the Dodgers. What makes you think that with the divorce case pending, adding this kind of salary would be okay? Hell, it could be even more than that if Eric Stephen’s hunch is correct and the cost of Oswalt waiving his no-trade clause is having his $16m 2012 club option picked up, so the real value here could be north of $37 million.
• Hurdle No. 2: Oswalt’s health history. He’s had back problems and has required injections in order to pitch, so there would be reason for concern about whether he could be physically able to serve out the rest of his contract.
This is the part that terrifies me. What could be worse than trading the prospects and taking on the salary to get him, and then have his back flare up? I’ll give you that he’s pitched very well this year, but he’s also coming off five consecutive years of declining ERA+ scores, which really does make me wonder about his back. Even scarier, you have to assume that the Houston training staff knows how to keep him healthier better than anyone. If he’s traded, he’ll lose that comfort zone – and what in the last few years suggests the Dodger training staff can be counted on to take on this new responsiblity?
• Hurdle No. 3: Oswalt has a full no-trade clause, which means that if the Astros actually got serious offers for the right-hander, Oswalt could kill the talks. Let’s just say, for example, that the Washington Nationals got very aggressive and decided they wanted to want to try to win this year, and that they agreed to a deal for the right-hander; Oswalt could step in and end the discussions, and insist that he be traded only to a team closer to his Mississippi home, like the Rangers or Cardinals or Braves.
Oswalt’s hometown of Weir, MS, is 1,944 miles away from Dodger Stadium. I can’t speak to how serious Oswalt would be to remaining relatively close to his home and if he’d really torpedo a deal over it, but it’s certainly not something that’s good news for the Dodgers.
• Hurdle No. 4 (and this is a biggie): At a time when teams are coveting their young prospects like never before, it remains to be seen whether any club would be willing to surrender a package of prospects good enough to convince Astros owner Drayton McLane to swap one of his signature stars.
This point can’t be overstated. Nearly everyone in baseball believes that McLane and the Astros should have started rebuilding at least two years ago, as Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, and Oswalt are past their peaks, all while Houston has what’s probably the worst farm system in baseball. As Olney says, McLane’s likely going to want a massive price in order to move Oswalt, and the Astros need help everywhere. Would you give up Chris Withrow, who dazzled in spring training? Dee Gordon, shortstop of the future? Or perhaps they’d want James Loney, a Houston native, to replace Berkman? The point is, McLane would expect to be compensated like Oswalt was one of the top five pitchers in baseball, which he no longer is.
Taking all of those factors into consideration – plus, if Oswalt is the best pitcher on the market, realizing that the Dodgers would hardly be the only competitors for his services – means that Oswalt donning Dodger blue is extremely unlikely.
Besides, with Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley pitching as we all knew they could, and Hiroki Kuroda being as solid as always, I’m not sure the club desperately needs to pay the price for a top-two starter right now. If anything, they might just need an inning-eating type (like last year’s acquisition of Jon Garland) to solidify the back end or guard against injury, and even then they’ll almost certainly wait to see how Vicente Padilla looks in a few weeks.
Chad @ MOKM laughs that you don’t hear any more talk from the media about how Kershaw and Billingsley are “regressing”, and he couldn’t be more right. I’ll admit to being slightly worried about Billingsley after a few terrible outings in the early going, but anyone who thought Kershaw was a bust after his one bad start was always insane.