The Cardinals are "frontrunners" for the services of Astros ace Roy Oswalt, according to an NBC sports report.
St. Louis GM John Mozeliak has been talking to Houston representatives for several days, according to the account. The Astros, who are trying to accommodate Oswalt's wish to be moved, may find the Cardinals to be their only realistic trading partner because Oswalt has said that he would like to pitch in St. Louis and he has a full no-trade clause.
ESPN agrees the Cardinals are the front runners for Oswalt. I wrote last week that, because of his no-trade clause, I felt Oswalt would have a major say in where he was dealt regardless of the Astros wishes. This has apparently panned out in that ESPN reports Oswalt said his $16-million 2012 option would have to be picked up to consider Philadelphia. He apparently doesn't require the Redbirds to pick it up.
The ability to get this deal done depends on Houston's demands for players in return. If the Birds absorb Oswalt's pricey contract, the Astros can expect less in the form of prospects. And that's probably good for the Cardinals because it's tough to send the cream of the farm system to a division rival.
Pitching prospect Shelby Miller probably is tops on Houston's wish list. Not only is he the Birds' top minor league hurler, but he's a Texas native, so he's marketable. If I was the St. Louis GM, I would be more willing to trade pitching for pitching than I would be to trade outfield prospect Jon Jay.
The Cardinals may very well need Jay next season if Ryan Ludwick is allowed to leave as a free agent. Jay has played unbelievably well this season in a pair of call ups.
Allen Craig, another outfield prospect, would also be tought to trade because of how well he has played after finally getting regular time. But the Cardinals are going to have to make a tough decision about who goes when Ludwick comes off the disabled list as soon as tomorrow.
The Astros may also ask for Jaime Garcia as part of an Oswalt deal. I'm not sure if I would give the young lefty up for Oswalt, although I might consider that as part of a deal for Dan Haren if I was running the St. Louis front office.
Oswalt is one of the best pitchers in the game. But he's in the declining phase of his career while Haren is in his prime. Besides, if the Cardinals take on Oswalt's paycheck, they're going to need cheap players like Garcia and Jay to play significant roles to make the finances even out.
The Cardinals need to remember that they are probably the only realistic bidder in the Oswalt derby. Philadelphia has reportedly pulled out because they're fading from contention -- thanks in large part from the Cardinals -- and it is unknown if Oswalt, a southerner, would be willing to pitch in a bandbox ballpark in the northeast.
Here's a little something to think of for the remainder of this season and next:
The only thing I worry about is the reason the Cardinals are being so bold... They certainly have money to spend with a payroll of less than $90 million including deferments of part of Pujols, Carpenter and Holliday's contracts. But it is against the Birds' nature to spend so freely.
Is owner Bill DeWitt feeling competive because one of his former partners owns the suprisingly competitive Reds? Because the Reds were built by fired former St. Louis GM Walt Jocketty... Are the Cardinals trying to add some star power to further impress pending free agent Pujols that they're committed to being competitive/ Or are they doing this because they don't think they are going to be able to keep Albert Pujols and they're trying to find some appealing replacement players?