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.
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