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How much can the Astros get for Roy Oswalt?

May 24, 2010, 3:55 PM EDT

Roy Oswalt requested a trade from the Astros late last week and rumors are starting to swirl around the potential interested teams, but exactly how good is the 32-year-old right-hander?
Oswalt has been one of baseball’s elite pitchers for a decade, yet generally seems underrated for someone who ranks fourth among all active pitchers in both ERA and winning percentage while winning more games than everyone his age or younger except CC Sabathia.
He’s started at least 30 games in seven of the past eight seasons while posting an ERA above 3.55 just once during that span, yet is only a three-time All-Star and has never finished higher than third in the Cy Young balloting. Last year back problems limited Oswalt to fewer than 200 innings for the first time since 2003 and he posted a career-worst 4.12 ERA, but he’s been as good as ever this season with a 2.66 ERA and 60-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 61 innings.
Beginning with Oswalt’s first full season in 2002, he’s ranked 4th, 15th, 13th, 13th, 9th, 25th, 11th, 26th, and now 8th among MLB starters in Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP), which removes factors like bullpen and lineup support, defense, and luck from the equation to evaluate pitchers based strictly on things they control. At age 32 and with his two worst years coming in 2007 and 2009 he seems more likely to be a top-25 starter than a top-15 starter at this point.
However, even at his worst he’s been a low-end No. 1 guy and Oswalt’s strong work so far this year suggests getting back to the top-15 range isn’t out of the question. His contract is also a factor, as Oswalt is making $15 million this season with another $16 million due in 2011 and a $16 million team option or $2 million buyout in 2012. While around $26 million for 1.5 seasons or $40 million for 2.5 seasons is essentially the going rate for a true No. 1 starter, it may prove difficult for the Astros to both unload his remaining contract and bring back top prospects, particularly if the Mariners start shopping Cliff Lee at some point.

  1. Jonny5 - May 24, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    Probably a #3 or 4 pitcher imo.

  2. willmose - May 24, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    xFIP has no solid statistical basis. It is a wet dream of some sabermetric guys trying to apply linear methods to non-linear data. With xFIP and a Susan B. you get into the street toilets in some towns. You use the Susan B. to get in and xFIP to clean yourself up when you are done.

  3. Joey B - May 24, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    Best question of the day. In addition to adding Lee to the equation, I guess it depends on which teams are struggling. For the rich teams, the issue of money doesn’t matter too much. The Mets are struggling, but have some hitting, and if Santana, Ossie, and Pelfrey are your 1-3, they had a real legit shot at the WC. If the NYY continue to struggle, they could easily afford to part with Montero. Any contender that struggles with attendance might see this as an opportunity to create goodwill (a much under-utilized technique imho).
    It’s possible (though low) that 90 games could get you a WC in the NL. The Nats are on pace for 83. Add Strasbourg and Ossie, and their attendance could go up 50%. Same with Cincy. That could be a big step forward for either club. A weak Mil team might still draw 3M, and a lot of that has to do with them gambling on CC a couple of years ago.

  4. Jonny5 - May 24, 2010 at 4:46 PM

    “The Nats are on pace for 83. Add Strasbourg and Ossie, and their attendance could go up 50%.” Lets not forget add those two and they are way over their pace they have going now as well. They could win 95 by the end of the season adding those two. Scary stuff. Whoda thunk it? Has anyone noticed how close of a race the NL east is from 2nd to last place? Crazy. 1.5 game difference from 2nd to last. It’s tight, and it’s going to be all season long.

  5. Jamie - May 24, 2010 at 4:48 PM

    The Dodgers should probably be willing to part with a pair of top-ten prospects for this guy. An Oswalt-Kershaw-Billingsley 1-2-3 would probably take them to the playoffs and do some damage once they got there. This of course only works if the McCourts money isn’t all tied up in no-show jobs for their kids/Andruw Jones.

  6. Evan - May 24, 2010 at 4:51 PM

    trade him to tampa bay where the best team in baseball if he wants a champion ship he should come to the rays where going all out this year in tampa

  7. bogart - May 24, 2010 at 5:12 PM

    4 or 5? How ignorant are you? Oswalt goes 6-plus every time out with no run support. It’s got to be tough knowing that if you make one mistake the game is lost. This guy ranks amongst the best.

  8. JE - May 24, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    Thank you for that thoughtful analysis. Now go take your grit, passion, and hustle theories and head back to the nursing home before you get cold, lonely, and scared.

  9. mike in MN - May 24, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    Dream trade: Slowey and Revere for Oswalt…..is that too much given his contract status, or not enough? No way I deal Hicks or Gibson in that deal….

  10. i'm right you are wrong - May 24, 2010 at 7:30 PM

    I thought willmose was quite insightful and pointed out what many people think… you can find a theory to prove just about any point you want and XFIP is possibly just another “in a vacuum” type of BS that we are expected to accept just because some awkward nerd who has never seen an actual baseball game came up with it.

  11. John Pileggi - May 24, 2010 at 8:30 PM

    In my car on the way home listening to NY Sports Radio, I heard the “haul” the Mets would offer got Oswalt starting with Daniel Murphy. As a Met fan it pains me to admit this, but the Mets do not have the horses to make this deal. If they offer Mejia and the young shortstop Tejada, they still come up short (even with Murphy). Fernando Martinez can not stay healthy very long. So, gutting the system will not be enough. Let’s move on.

  12. willmose - May 24, 2010 at 8:38 PM

    Silly me, I thought people take xFIP as meaningful statistic which it is not. Have you looked at its proof? It isn’t linear at all and yet it is applied as if it is. They use a statistical analysis that make all serious mathematians LOL. I’m a fan of meaningful stats, I think WHIP is a big improvement over ERA and it correlates linearly with actual results. Likewise with OPS to a point. So, JE take you dentures out and gum down all that delicious brown applesauce that sabermetrics serves up. The rest of us will trust our noses and get a choose the ones that are meaningful.

  13. OsandRoyals - May 25, 2010 at 5:04 AM

    First off to Gleeman, xFIP’s removes luck and fielding AND uses the average homerun rate.
    Secondly I think most would agree that xFIP has some problems as does FIP especially with accounting for the homerun rate variance among pitchers.
    Both are pretty good at looking at what a pitcher’s era should close to. Generally it is best used when considering trades since a trade moving a Twins pitcher who relies on his defense to the Royals would result in the pitcher with an ERA much higher than having a higher ERA.
    I’m assuming that the results willmose refers to are wins. FIP really does not seek to measure wins, just approximate a pitcher’s true value. Since FIP and xFIP both remove defense as a consideration results
    I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that willmose probably isn’t a statistician but a mathematician since proofs are not nearly as frequent in statistics as in the more traditional areas of mathamatics.

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