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So would you ever trade a Strasburg-like talent for Oswalt?

May 25, 2010, 9:10 AM EDT

Thumbnail image for Strasburg Triple-A.jpgSteve Phillips is taking a ton of heat for his “I’d trade Strasburg for Oswalt” comments yesterday. And he deserves it.  Rob Neyer, however, has decided to probe the question a little deeper and wonders whether you’d ever trade a Strasburg-level talent for a guy like Roy Oswalt.  The answer? Sure you would.

The monster caveat: you just would never, ever do it if you were in the Nationals’ current position on the success cycle (i.e. not yet ready for a World Series push and desperately needing good young talent to make you competitive).

So yeah, Phillips is still crazy.  He’s crazy, however, not for the idea of a trade like that full-stop. Indeed, both Phillips in his overall comments (read the full conversation here) and Neyer in correctly note the idea of the uncertainty involved in evaluating even the best pitching prospects. Phillips is just crazy for not appreciating where the Nats stand, competitively speaking, when counseling such a move.

In this Phillips is not unlike a lot of general managers over the years who have misjudged where their teams stood and attempted to make a playoff push when such a thing was either (a) a pipe dream; or (b) came at the expense of more sustained, long-term success.  There are just far fewer of them in the game today because they burnt their teams one too many times.

Kinda like Steve Phillips did.

  1. BC - May 25, 2010 at 10:12 AM

    “…They burnt their teams one too many times. Kinda like Steve Phillips did.”
    Yeah great, now we’re stuck with the phenomenon that is Omar Minaya. That worked out well.

  2. ecp - May 25, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    I like Oswalt, but Phillps’ comment that he is one of the top five pitchers in the game is so delusional that it could only be spoken by three possible entities: 1) Oswalt’s agent 2) the Astros while trying to trade Oswalt or 3) Steve Phillips.

  3. Joey B - May 25, 2010 at 10:23 AM

    From Neyer
    ” but it’s worth mentioning that Price is now in his third major league season, and he’s still not the pitcher we once thought he would become.”
    Not for nothing, but Price would win the Cy Young award if the season ended today. He is 7-1 with a 2.41. And Neyer thinks that Price isn’t the pitcher ‘we’ once thought he’d be?
    On topic, the answer is still a resounding no. Referring to how much value a player adds above his salary, the present projected value for a guy like Strasbourg might be $25M or more. The PV for Oswalt might be $1-2M. Unless you’re the NYY, have endless money, and little regard for prospects, then there is virtually no conditions under which that trade would make sense.

  4. Jason - May 25, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    Never say never.
    Remember when the Twins were lambasted for taking Mauer over Prior in the draft?
    I didn’t hear the the comments, but I do agree that the Nationals should not do that trade.
    If you assume the Twins had him, then I would trade him for Cliff Lee if I had a contract signed to avoid FA for Lee.

  5. Jonny5 - May 25, 2010 at 10:46 AM

    The Nationals are running things perfectly right now, and of all the teams in rebuild mode, they are poised to become the best of the bunch. This article pretty much lays out what’s coming for this team.

  6. wickethewok - May 25, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    I still think it’s crazy because I think they’re at least toss up in terms of where their pitching ability is right now. It wouldn’t surprise me if Strasburg’s performance over the life of Oswalt’s contract is greater than Oswalt’s. Throw in the higher ceiling, longer team control, and cheaper contract, and I think it’s a slam dunk for Strasburg for any team, not just a rebuilding one. Plus, it isn’t like Oswalt has zero-percent of getting injured.

  7. Scott - May 25, 2010 at 10:59 AM

    I also think a factor is the owners, a guy like Oswalt is easy for owners to understand whereas an elite prospect like Strasburg might be harder for an owner to understand especially in the business of winning now and asking questions later.

  8. Joey B - May 25, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    I agree. I think Ossie is a nice target for a team that can afford $16M and desperately needs an SP, like maybe the NYM, or even a team looking to excite its fans with a WC run, like Cincy or the Nats. But Ossie is not a great pitcher. He’s a good pitcher (with a huge payroll number). His ERA for 2008 & 2009 is 3.81 with a 1.208 Whip. His ERA has inched up for four straight years. Based on the last two years, and his good start this year, I’d expect an ERA in the high 3’s the rest of the year. A solid #2, but a top-5, and Strasbourg worthy? No chance.

  9. P - May 25, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    Remember the Tigers trade John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander it got them a World Series ring. How long can one team build for the future, and when it is time to go for it? WOuld you trade 10 years of a great young pitcher for a chance to win the WS? Now I don’t think Oswalt could do that for the Nats, but at some point you have to go for it. Like I think the Giants need to trade for a hitter because the are wasting the best pitching in baseball.

  10. RobRob - May 25, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    It’s funny that no one seems to be picking up on the fact that the Mets did this with Scott Kazmir in 2004. Phillips wasn’t the GM, having been fired just about a year before the Kazmir-Zambrano trade.

    While it’s not really fair to pin that trade on Phillips, it’s possible that his fingerprints were on that deal from the grave. Reading this article from the NY Times (, one could infer that some of those voices advocating the trade could have been hold-overs from the previous administration.

  11. Joey B - May 25, 2010 at 11:52 AM

    “Remember the Tigers trade John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander it got them a World Series ring.”
    LOL! You’re actually proving the opposite point. They traded Smoltz, but lost in the ALCS. So even though Alexander helped get them in the playoffs, the trade did irreparable damage to the franchise. They missed the playoffs for the next 18 seasons, while Atlanta went to the POs 13 times with Smoltz, and Smoltz went on to a HOF career.

  12. Mark - May 25, 2010 at 12:13 PM

    And, if memory serves, Smoltz wasn’t thought of on the same level as Strasburg. Not even close.

  13. JayT - May 25, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    I would never want to see my team make a trade like this, but when you think about it, wouldn’t it have been nice for the Cubs to have traded Mark Prior in 2002 for someone like Randy Johnson? I think the point Phillips was trying to make is that even if a guy looks like a sure thing, like Prior, there can still be unforseen problems down the road.

  14. BillyBeaneismyHero - May 25, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    I am Jack’s total lack of surprise. It’s amazing Phillips hasn’t been snatched up by another team since the Mets fired him 7-8 years ago.

  15. Joe - May 25, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    The Yankees in a heart beat. Start with Granderson and go from there. The Yankees have enough in the minors to make it work for Houston.

  16. Joey B - May 25, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    “I would never want to see my team make a trade like this, but when you think about it, wouldn’t it have been nice for the Cubs to have traded Mark Prior in 2002 for someone like Randy Johnson?”
    Even as extreme as the Prior example is, the Cubs get murdered in that trade. Johnson went 22-22 in the years remaining on his contract, and got paid $31M over the two years. Prior was 24-10 over the same two years for $4.6M. So you get similar production, but have to cull out about $13M per year in payroll from some other position.
    But it serves to illustrate the issues. There is no guarantee that Oswalt can actually out-pitch Strasbourg over two year, as the Prior/Johnson example illustrates. And even if he did, you’d still have to factor in how many other improvements you passed on for payroll purposes.
    Think of it this way. Suppose your payroll could support either the $16M Ozwalt is getting, or the you spend the $16M on Strasbourg, Dunn, and a #4 SP, which side would you prefer? It’s like the Santana trade to the NYY. They could trade Hughes + for Santana, or for the same money, just sign Sabathia. Would you prefer Sabathia & Hughes, or Santana?

  17. Cracky - May 25, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    Mabye Phillips thinks Oswalt will have sex with him or something ir he makes this trade 😉

  18. scatterbrian - May 25, 2010 at 3:03 PM

    I thought the exact same thing about Price in the Neyer piece. There’s almost a tone of “bust” in there, as he mentions Price is in his third major league season, which is misleading and disingenuous. In reality, Price has 202 career innings pitched and entered the season with less than one year of ML service time. And he’s 24.

  19. Joey B - May 25, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    “There’s almost a tone of “bust” in there, as he mentions Price is in his third major league season, which is misleading and disingenuous.”
    That’s kind of you. Neyer is about as closetolying as one can get. He had exactly one start in his first season. Even he wants to play word games, how about Price has averaged less than 3 losses per season over his career? Isn’t that impressive?

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