Late last week, Roy Oswalt blinked. He backed off of his demand that any club
– other than the Cardinals – that was going to trade for him, would have to
guarantee his contract for 2012. Initially, when Oswalt made the demand, it
seemed to shoot the Phillies out of the running to acquire Oswalt, but with his
concession, they’re right back in the hunt for the 32 year-old right-hander. And
to make matters even rosier, the Astros have been scouting J.A. Happ and were
reportedly pretty happy with what they saw him in his start against Colorado on
Sunday, even though it wasn’t exactly a stellar start for the left-hander.
One of the pieces that the Astros want in exchange for Oswalt, is a major
league ready pitcher and Happ would fit the bill. He would also be a nice enough
piece of the puzzle, that the Phillies might not have to relinquish too many
prospects in the trade for Oswalt. Also going in the Phillies favor is Sunday’s
trade of Dan Haren from the Diamondbacks to the Angels. Baseball experts were
surprised that the D’backs couldn’t get a better return for Haren and what
initially looked like a guy who was going to bring some strong prospects to
Arizona turned into somewhat of a salary dump that could force Houston to lower
their price on Oswalt, by just a little.
Speaking of Haren, it’s surprising that the Phillies – or many other clubs –
wouldn’t have offered a better package in exchange for a guy that was thought to
be pretty highly coveted by a number of clubs. Would you rather have Joe Saunders, who the D’backs got as part of the package, or Happ? And the Phillies
could have also matched the very mildly impressive collection of prospects that
the Angels included in the deal.
There were a number of scouts in attendance for Oswalt’s last start, which
wasn’t up to his usual standards. Perhaps, the whirlwind of trade rumors is
starting to get to him as the deadline nears. If you remember last July, Roy Halladay had a couple of rough outings right about this time of the year, which
were also attributed to some distractions.
While the Cardinals were thought to be the front-runners, if for no other
reason than the fact that Oswalt seemed to openly prefer being dealt to St. Louis, they’re now said to be backing away from a potential deal and are instead
waiting to see how Kyle Lohse pitches in a rehab start early this week. If Lohse
looks like he’s nearing a return, the Cards may just consider him their deadline
pick-up and go with what they’ve got in their rotation. It also appears that the
Astros haven’t been able to find a fit that they like with the Cardinals and are
having a hard time coming up with a package that would work for them, which is
the same problem that the Dodgers are having in trying to come up with a deal
for Oswalt. With the Cardinals, Dodgers and Phillies thought to be the most
adamant about acquiring Oswalt, the Phillies might have become the team with the
best chance of getting the former all-star before Saturday’s deadline.
Oswalt is currently set to start again on Friday, while the Phillies are
still listing their Thursday and Friday starters as "to be announced".
If the normal rotation were to hold, Kyle Kendrick would be Thursday’s starter
and J.A. Happ would be the starter Friday to open the series in Washington.
As for trading Jayson Werth, there is no obvious front-runner at this point
and it’s looking more and more like the Phillies might wind up hanging on to
Werth. One potential deal that still seems to be sitting out there is swapping
Werth to the Yankees for pitcher Javier Vazquez, but that doesn’t seem likely
since the injury to Andy Pettitte delivered a hit to the Yankees starting
rotation. The idea of dealing Werth straight-up for a starting pitcher is an
intriguing idea for the Phillies, especially with Raul Ibanez starting to hit
and the fact that the right-handed hitting Ben Francisco is also starting to hit
the ball well.