Thursday, July 29, 2010

Phillies Close to Landing Oswalt

According to ESPN, the Phillies are on the verge of landing Roy Oswalt, giving their rotation a major boost for the stretch run. Supposedly the Phillies and Astros have agreed on terms and it's just a matter of Oswalt waiving his no-trade clause. Thus far the players involved have not been announced, save that J.A. Happ would likely be dealt. One has to think he will jump at the chance to leave the cellar-dwelling Astros and join a team who, with him, has to be back in the conversation as elite title contenders.

Even without Oswalt, the Phillies have made a strong push lately. They current sit just 2.5 games out of the wildcard and 3.5 out of the division. And this run has come without Chase Utley. Just getting Utley back in September (assuming he's at full strength by then) could give the Phillies the spark they need to win their fourth straight division title, but adding Oswalt greatly increases their chances to make the playoffs yet again.

Oswalt's 6-12 record this season is certainly underwhelming, but that has more to do with the Astros' poor record than anything else, as he's posted a very respectable 3.42 ERA. What's more impressive is his 1.11 WHIP; his best since his rookie year in 2001, when he went 14-3 with a 2.73 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP.

He may not be as good as the Phillies' other Roy, but he is an established ace and a workhorse. He has no injury history to speak of and, despite his poor records in the last two years, has shown no signs of slowing down. What's more, he shouldn't have any trouble pitching in Citizen's Bank Park because he's already in a hitter's park. He has fared significantly better on the road this season than at home (Home - 2-9, 3.96 ERA/Road - 4-3, 2.61 ERA). Even if he posted an ERA around 4.00, that would still be an upgrade over the back of the Phillies' rotation.

Should the Phillies complete the trade and continue on to the postseason, one would have to like their chances even better than last year's. In 2009, the Phillies rotation consisted of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Pedro Martinez, and Joe Blanton. The projected 2010 rotation would have Roy Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt, and Blanton or Jamie Moyer (or Happ, if it turns out he's not part of the trade). Switching Lee for Halladay is effectively an even deal. Halladay is a slightly better pitcher, but he'll be hard-pressed to match Lee's postseason mastery in 2009. Oswalt should be an upgrade over Pedro, though Pedro did perform fairly well last year. In addition, Hamels has shown far more poise this season than last and it would not be a surprise to see him return to his 2008 postseason form (or close to it, anyway). The 1-2-3 punch of Halladay-Hamels-Oswalt should make the Phillies extremely tough to beat in any series.

Of course, it must be pointed out that the Phillies had the opportunity for a Halladay-Lee-Hamels rotation. If the Phillies have to give up top-level prospects for Oswalt, it will not reflect well on Ruben Amaro's abilities as GM. It would be yet another short-sighted move. But if they can do it by giving up only Happ and some decent prospects than it's hard to complain. It is actually a wise move (and an impressive sell job on Amaro's part) to make Happ the centerpiece of the deal, selling high on the young lefty. Happ had a great rookie season, but didn't show much in the playoffs (albeit in relatively few chances) and has missed the majority of this season due to injury. If they can turn one good season into Roy Oswalt, it would be a coup, especially considering that according to every sabermetrician out there, Happ was extremely lucky to perform so well in 2009.

We'll see what the terms of the trade end up being (provided Oswalt signs off on it) but things are certainly looking up for the Phillies right now.

1 comment:

Jeff Raab said...

The biggest reasons it seems like Oswalt wouldn't waive his no-trade clause is because first of all, he really doesn't want to move his family too far from where he is, and secondly it sounds like he doesn't want to go to a place where the media isn't as vicious as in Philadelphia. Should Oswalt agree to the trade? Given everything that he's said in the past two months about wanting out, wanting to go to a contender, and so on, yes. I would also think that the prospect of playing with Roy Halladay would appeal to him, and knowing that he could be a big contributor to a World Series caliber team. But I can't say I'd be surprised if he didn't waive the no-trade clause for personal reasons.