Normally the baseball trading season does not heat up until June with the real excitement taking place leading up to the July 31st trading deadline. But in late May 2010 Roy Oswalt of the Houston Astros has jump started the speculation and frenzy by requesting or demanding, depending on your perspective, a trade. Roy Oswalt is, of course, a pitcher and not just any pitcher but a rare commodity in baseball: a starting pitcher who can pitch alot of innings and win games. The Houston Astros are not doing well in 2010 and so you have to assume that Roy Oswalt wants to move on to a better team.
The interesting part of Roy Oswalt’s trade request is that his contract includes a full no-trade clause. That is, the Houston Astros cannot trade him without his approval. So what Roy Oswalt is now saying is that he is willing to waive that no-trade clause, at least as it applies to teams where Oswalt would like to go. So the Houston Astros are somewhat limited in negotiating a trade in that they can only negotiate with teams that Roy Oswalt would agree to waive that no-trade clause. Any time you limit the sales market the potential for value in return is diminished. In other words, the best deal the Houston Astros might get could be with a team that Roy Oswalt will not approve. When Roy Oswalt signed his current contract which covers the years 2007 to 2011 for $73 million, he had been a Houston Astro all his life since being drafted in 1996. I imagine that Oswalt was only willing to commit to staying in Houston for five years on the guarantee that the Astros did not trade him. For the Houston Astros it was not a problem since he is a great pitcher and at the time they had no intention of trading him. Rather they wanted him to stay which is why they gave him a five year contract with a club option for 2012. Now, however, that no-trade clause may come back to haunt the Astros.
So what do the Astro’s do? They could say to Roy Oswalt that you signed a contract with a no-trade clause and you have to play in Houston through 2011 with a club option for 2012 and we are not going to trade you. That would be the leverage in trade negotiations with other teams. We do not have to trade him so we have the upper hand. Realistically, the Houston Astros are going nowhere as a team and it is in their best interests to trade a player who no longer wants to be with your team and can substantially lower your payroll while bringing good value in return. However the Houston Astros are not going to give him away just to make Roy happy.
So who would want Roy Oswalt? Any team that can afford to pay him $15 million in 2010 and $16 million in 2011 and who wants to dramatically improve their pitching staff and greatly increase their chances of making the playoffs. So which teams would Roy Oswalt consent to in a trade? The report is that his preferences are Texas, St. Louis and Atlanta. There are doubts that any of the three can either afford him or would want to spend that money on a pitcher. So how will it all end? There will be speculation and rumors and in the end, if it makes sense for the Houston Astros and another team that has a serious chance of making the playoffs, especially with the addition of Roy Oswalt, then a deal will take place. If not then poor Roy Oswalt will be forced to pitch in Houston and cash those large paychecks.