Inside the Phillies: Phillies face roadblocks in making deal for Astros' Oswalt

Posted: July 27, 2010

It's going to take a lot of blinking and a lot of thinking for Roy Oswalt to be fitted for a Phillies uniform before the end of the week.

The only thing that seemed clear five days before Saturday's trade deadline was that the Phillies are not the team of choice for the Houston Astros' staff ace - a stark contrast to a year ago, when Roy Halladay, then with Toronto, badly wanted to be in Philadelphia.

A baseball source said Monday that St. Louis and Atlanta are the only two places Oswalt would approve a trade without having the teams guarantee his $16 million option for 2012. The Braves, the source said, are not in a position to take on Oswalt's contract even without the option year.

The Astros, according to several reports, are reluctant to deal Oswalt to the Cardinals because of their shared residence in the National League Central Division. Oswalt, according to a foxsports.com report, does not want to be traded to the Phillies.

"Oswalt has [Astros general manager] Ed Wade and everybody else at his mercy because of that no-trade clause," the source said. "I know the Phillies thought they were close to having it done last week, but I think the difference was that option year."

Money, of course, has convinced a lot of people to do a lot of things they would not do otherwise, but if the Phillies agreed to guarantee Oswalt's $16 million option year, they will have committed $100.45 million to eight players for the 2012 season. That does not leave a lot of cash in the vault to fill the 17 remaining roster spots.

Perhaps a compromise could be reached, but right now neither side is blinking.

It's really a matter of who has more to lose. Remember, it was Oswalt who informed Wade and the Astros that he wanted to be traded to a contending team in late May. So if he really wants to be traded to a contending team, then why is that extra $14 million so important?

At the end of his current contract, Oswalt will have made right around $94 million if the option year is not exercised and, at 35, he'll still have earning power provided he is healthy. If the option becomes guaranteed, Oswalt will have made $108 million in his career.

It's not apparent what you can buy with $108 million that you cannot buy with $94 million, but one rare item that is attainable in Philadelphia and not in Houston this season is a World Series championship ring.

The Phillies, by completing a four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies with a 5-4 win that included another nail-biting ninth courtesy of closer Brad Lidge, showed that they have plenty of fight left in them as the deadline nears.

Rest assured, the first-place Braves, who have seen their lead shrink from seven to 41/2 games since Friday, would be a worried bunch if Oswalt ended up in the Phillies' rotation.

"If you think about what it costs to get a No. 1 pitcher, the $16 million isn't that much," the source said.

Of course, there is also the players to be traded and, according to several reports, the Astros are asking for a lot. An espn.com report claimed the Astros want "a young, frontline player off the big-league roster, two high-end prospects and one more prospect." The same report said the Los Angeles Dodgers halted talks for Oswalt when Houston asked for outfielder James Loney.

In terms of players, the Phillies appear to be a good match with the Astros. They are willing to part with lefthander J.A. Happ and a National League scout said Monday that the Astros are interested in righthander Vance Worley, who was optioned to triple-A Lehigh Valley after making his major-league debut in a one-inning relief outing Saturday against the Rockies.

Worley, who was 9-4 with a 3.20 ERA in 19 starts at double-A Reading this season, is scheduled to pitch for the IronPigs on Tuesday night and a scout from the Astros will be there.

If Happ and Worley filled half the Astros' trade demands, the Phillies would still have to include two other players. It's a given that Domonic Brown isn't going anywhere and the Phillies, according to the espn.com report, also do not want to deal Jonathan Singleton, who has excelled this season at single-A Lakewood.

"I wouldn't do the deal unless I got Anthony Gose," the National League scout said.

Gose, a centerfielder at single-A Lakewood, has been compared to Michael Bourn, the all-star centerfielder the Phillies traded to Wade and Houston for Lidge in 2007.

The Phillies, of course, are also listening to offers for rightfielder Jayson Werth, who did not start Monday against the Rockies. In fact, in the middle of the game, a report from a San Diego radio station surfaced that he had been traded to the Padres.

A few innings later, Werth trotted into his familiar right-field position at Citizens Bank Park as a defensive replacement.

Apparently you can't believe everything you read and hear at the trade deadline.


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

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