According to AOL's Fanhouse, Houston starter Roy Oswalt has told the Astros that he would only accept a trade to three teams: The Cardinals, the Phillies or the Yankees.
That's going to be pretty tough for the Astros to accomplish if they hope to get anything decent in return. The Yankees have steadfastly refused to spend any money since the beginning of the winter, the Phillies payroll seems to be maxed out and the Cardinals don't have high level prospects they'd be willing to deal to make an Oswalt trade happen.
With the exception of Javier Vazquez, the Yankees starting rotation has been quite good. And I doubt they'd open up the pocketbooks to replace their fifth starter. If they had the inkling to spend money, it would likely go for help in the bullpen.
Philadelphia is probably the most likely landing spot on Oswalt's wish list. The Phillies, after all, are counting on 47 year old Jamie Moyer to fill one starter's slot while Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton, with ERAs over 5.00, try to hold down two more. While the Philadelphia payroll is high now at nearly $140 million, a cash crisis looms on the horizon. Moyer ($6.5 million), Jayson Werth ($7 million) and Jimmy Rollins ($7.5 million with an $8.5 million option or $2 million buyout) could all be let go in 2011 to save some money. But Blanton's contract calls for him to go from $1 million this year to $8.5 million in 2011. Starter Cole Hamels will go from $6.65 million to $9.5 million and Shane Victorino will go from $5 million to $7.5. The Phillies don't seem to think they can afford to keep Werth. But they will likely have no choice to keep Rollins despite injury problems this season and a run in with the manager last year.
As far as the Cardinals are concerned, Oswalt's availability to them is more about opportunity than need -- at least for now.
The Birds hope to have injured starter Brad Penny back in a couple of weeks and have a darn good top four in their rotation to worry too much about who fills in for Kyle Lohse in the fifth spot. The reason they might like to have Oswalt is because the future looks somewhat threatening. Chris Carpenter could go down at any time because of the nerve problem in his pitching shoulder -- not to mention his lengthy history of other injuries. Penny's had enough health problems over the last few seasons that I don't think you can assume he's just going to come back and never have another issue. Rookie starter Jaime Garcia is coming off Tommy John surgery and may have to scale down on his work at some point. It's hard to expect him to pitch 200 plus innings this year when he only pitched a handful all last season.
If the Cardinals were to make a move for Oswalt, I imagine it would be as late in the season as possible to let the Astros soak up as much of his salary as they can. Then next year they could let Brad Penny walk as a free agent to create much of the money they would need to pay Oswalt on what would effectively be a one-year deal.
The other problem is that the Birds don't have a lot of prospects to deal for Oswalt. I pitched a crazy little supposition the other day about sending Colby Rasmus Houston's way. But that's not going to happen. More likely, the Cardinals might be willing to send the Astros a guy like Allen Craig -- who could play first base in Houston for the soon to be departing Lance Berkman -- and a middle level pitching prospect. And I don't know if that's enough to get a deal done.
Bottom line: I still think Oswalt will be in Houston for at least another year.
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