Roy Oswalt's request to be dealt from the Astros means that the sweepstakes for the veteran pitcher are officially on. We've heard that Oswalt is willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to a contending team, and three teams that he would reportedly be interested in joining are the Braves, Cardinals and Rangers.
If these really are the top choices on Oswalt's wish list, the right-hander might need to expand his horizons. Several obstacles stand between Oswalt pitching for any of these clubs:
- Texas. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News is pessimistic about the Rangers' chances at Oswalt, noting that the team's unsettled ownership situation would make it difficult to take on Oswalt's big salary. The right-hander is owed $16MM in 2011 and has a club option for $16MM in 2012. That final year can be bought out for $2MM, but that still adds up to an $18MM investment in Oswalt, not to mention the remainder of his $15MM salary this season. Rich Harden is the only experienced arm currently in the Texas rotation, but given the number of promising young arms in the Rangers' system, committing a lot of money to a veteran like Oswalt doesn't make much long-term sense.
- St. Louis. Even if Oswalt's no-trade clause and salary limits Houston's options, it's hard to imagine the Astros dealing one of their franchise icons within the division. MLB.com's Matthew Leach (via Twitter) doesn't think the Cardinals will seriously pursue Oswalt since the St. Louis rotation is already so strong. Leach thinks the Cards will "put in a call" to keep their bases covered, but it's a longshot.
- Atlanta. Much like St. Louis, the Braves have no pressing need for another starter, even one of Oswalt's caliber. If the Braves make any moves before the trade deadline, it will be to acquire a hitter to improve their struggling lineup. There's also the fact that while the Cardinals and Rangers currently lead their divisions, Atlanta is 21-20 heading into Friday's play and will face a tough uphill climb to catch the Phillies in the NL East. The Braves might not fit Oswalt's definition of a "contender."
There's also the possibility that Oswalt might not go anywhere. As Houston GM Ed Wade told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart, "Roy's contract includes a no-trade clause, not a trade-me clause…I just want to acknowledge the request has been made, but it really doesn't change anything on our end." It has been well-documented that Astros owner Drayton McLane Jr. is loath to commit to a full rebuilding process for his team and give up on the Oswalt/Lance Berkman/Carlos Lee era, but now that Oswalt has outright asked to be traded, perhaps that's the sign that McLane needs to see that changes are necessary in Houston.