The Washington Nationals have made no secret of their interest in Roy Oswalt, and with good reason. The 32-year-old lays waste to the wins statistic, pitching to just a 2-6 record despite a 2.66 ERA, 16 walks and 60 strikeouts in 61 innings. That 8.9 K/9 mark should go a long way toward assuaging teams concerned about taking on the hefty salary Oswalt commands- $15MM this year, $16MM in 2011, and a $16MM 2012 option (with $2MM buyout).
Assuming the Nationals would take on Oswalt's contract and the pitcher is willing to play for them, what would constitute a reasonable haul of young players from Washington?
For Houston's part, they need help, essentially, everywhere. The farm system is pretty sparsely populated, prospect-wise, and the major league club has needs all over. Their 15-29 record is earned honestly; their Pythagorean mark, based on runs scored and runs allowed, is 14-30.
Some major league pieces that could interest Houston include Ian Desmond, who could provide middle infield help for the Astros, and Tyler Clippard, whose value might never be higher after a strong start (and with Houston GM Ed Wade a longtime lover of bullpen pieces).
But the deal would almost certainly have to revolve around minor league pieces. Houston would be right to ask for Drew Storen or Derek Norris as a centerpiece, though both are extremely prized by Washington, and the latter plays the same position as Houston's best prospect, Jason Castro. The smart money is probably on a deal centered around pitcher Brad Meyers, whose tremendous results at Double-A this year- 27 strikeouts, four walks in 22 2/3 innings, 0.79 ERA- are only tempered by questions about how his stuff will translate at higher levels.
Other pieces that could draw Houston's interest include 2006 first rounder Chris Marrero as a possible replacement for Lance Berkman at first base (though his Double-A numbers are underwhelming so far), and Danny Espinosa, whose strong play and effective plate discipline at shortstop for Double-A Harrisburg makes him appear pretty close to big-league ready.
From this view, a reasonable trade for Oswalt would be Meyers, Marrero, Clippard and another minor piece. And given the massive needs of the Astros, such a deal would certainly be in their interest.