Roy Oswalt got traded from the Houston Astros to the Philadelphia Phillies. I debated letting this one go, because there is more than enough analysis out there already. However, it's just way too fascinating of a deal.
Here are my two cents, and then some.
The Phillies got one heck of a pitcher. Among pitchers not on the Cliff Lee level, Oswalt is about as good as they come in 2010. He has a remarkably long track record of success, durability, and playoff experience to boot. His fastball is not quite as explosive as it once was, but the secondary pitchers are nice, and the command is good too. Really, if I had to say what Roy Oswalt is in one line, I'd simply say he is one heck of a pitcher.
In return for one of the more iconic players of the past decade for them, the Astros got three talents in return. The best known is Oswalt's direct replacement, J.A. Happ. The 6'6", 200 pound, 27-year-old southpaw became a hot name as he rolled off a hot streak last year in the Phillies rotation, but I never jumped on the bandwagon. Happ strikes out a modest number of batters with modest control and modest...everything, really. He is solid. Even watching him on television a few times, I saw what looked to me like a pretty straight fastball with solid breaking material.
Nothing stands out about Happ for me. He looks cut out of the Jarrod Washburn pattern to me, which is not an indictment on him. He has a place in the Astros rotation, and probably will for several years. However, he won't make anyone forget about Oswalt.
Along with Happ, Houston got a couple 19-year-olds in the deal, SS Jonathan Villar and OF Anthony Gose. However, Gose did not stick around along; later in the day he was flipped to the Blue Jays for 1B Brett Wallace.
Villar is a raw shortstop with lots of room to grow. However, there are several things to like. Villar is too much a free-swinger, as evidenced by a pretty high strikeout rate with few walks. However, he also sports a .272 average with obvious speed. Though I've never seen Villar with my own two eyes, his statistics suggest to me that his stroke is solid, and his biggest problem is a free-swinging approach. Plate discipline can develop with time, so I like his growth potential at the plate. I wonder about Villar's power, but he won't ever need much if his speed translates on the basepaths and in the field. Overall, his skillset is well-suited for shortstop, and with some seasoning, he has a chance to make a nice impression of Orlando Cabrera or Elvis Andrus.
Anthony Gose has one tool: speed. He is yet to hit much, and frankly, he is yet to run effectively on the basepaths, though it is obvious that he likes his speed with all the attempts he racks up. Gose better become a world-class defender, because I don't like his bat much at all. On the other hand, the prospect he was flipped for, Brett Wallace, is a polished bat sitting in AAA. There are questions about his fielding ability, which is why his future is at first base. Even though Toronto has plenty of hitting ability right now, a straight-up swap of Gose for Wallace does not add up to me. Wallace is certainly more polished than Gose right now, and I think his bat is a more valuable tool than Gose's speed/defense will ever be.
This is where the fun begins with this deal. It is hard to draw any firm conclusions on either side.
To begin with, I was a little underwhelmed by the package the Phillies gave up for Oswalt. However, once the Astros traded Gose for Wallace, it looks like a pretty solid haul to me. I do not think Houston got a true star back, but they ended up with a trio that could give them a ton of solid years. A boatload of solid years in return for an aging, expensive (though good) pitcher is a solid deal for a team that really, really needs an injection of youth. Clearly, Houston knew it could flip Gose for Wallace, so I am inclined to consider the move part of the deal. If I do, I tip my cap to Houston on a pretty solid deal...
...Although, there is another really obvious consequence from the trade. Brett Wallace is a first basemen, just like aging franchise icon Lance Berkman. The writing is on the wall for him. He has to go now. The whispers have been there since the start of the year, but now there is a legitimate replacement waiting in the wings. Berkman's days in Houston are numbered. I am sure the team will shop him around in the hours leading up to the deadline, and he may be a good August trade target. He won't net much in a trade, but someone would be smart to acquire him, and the Astros would be smart to cover his cost to get some worthwhile young talent in return.
I am not the biggest fan of total rebuilding efforts, but I am glad to see Houston finally committing to that route. They were in a really bad position, thanks to a thin farm system with an aging roster that wasn't winning ballgames. It's horrible to get in a position like that, and the only real solution is to wipe the slate clean and try again. That's what Houston began in earnest with the Oswalt trade.
On the complete flip side is the Philadelphia Phillies. The back-to-back NL Champions are obviously in a "win now" mode, as they should be. Their roster is filled with aging players in the twilight of their careers. They are still quite good, and won't be forever (although they better hope Ryan Howard is, with the huge extension they signed him to this year). The Phillies are the textbook definition of a team that should try to win now at pretty much all costs, because their window of opportunity is closing...
...Which is why it was so curious when they traded Cliff Lee last offseason. Their window was right now. Furthermore, none of the prospects they acquired in the Lee deal were used in the Oswalt trade. In theory, they could have had Lee, Halladay, and Oswalt on their team. How scary would that have been? Moreover, none of those trades would have required giving up their top prospect, Domonic Brown.
There has been enough written about how puzzling the Cliff Lee deal was from the Phillies perspective. I won't belabor it even more. Instead, I'll finish by wondering what might have been if Philadelphia had three pitching aces, and in general if they had decided to go all in with their current core, and thrown all caution to the wind with their future.
One side note: in general, I've thought that many of Amaro's moves are questionable. He has signed several aging players to big contracts, and the Cliff Lee deal was, as I said earlier, puzzling. However, he also has pulled off distinct deals for Halladay, Lee, and Oswalt within a calendar year, and that's amazing. Big trades like that are hard to pull off, yet Amaro has found a way to get three of them done in a relatively short time span. I think one thing that separates arm chair GMs from real ones is the ability to actually work the phone lines and consummate trades. Amaro is clearly one of the best at that, and he was even able to keep Happ out of the Lee deal, and Brown out of the Oswalt one. He doesn't just bend over to get trades done. These are legitimate, big deals, and Amaro makes them look more routine than they actually are.
I feel like this post rambled, but there it is. I can't recall another trade in recent memory that is so intertwined in other deals. I'm not just talking about the obvious one, the Cliff Lee trade. Even on Houston's end, this move signals the need for other moves to fully usher out the old, and try again with new blood.
Bottom line, this was a good deal for Philadelphia, and a fair deal for Houston - pending a few other likely moves that fully commit them to a rebuilding process. It is hard to say this is a good move for the Astros with how painful it is, but they were in a painful position. Yet, it is also uncomfortable for Philly to feel really good about the deal too, because of the glaring connections to the Cliff Lee trade. Is it good for both sides? Bad? Neither? Both? There is an argument for just about any stance, and two people could even have different stances if they have the same views on all the players involved. Fascinating, if you ask me.