Evaluating the Roy Oswalt Trade

With the rumor mill for Roy Oswalt finally heating up, it’s safe to say Ruben Amaro will not be signing his paycheck next year. Gordon Edes of espnboston.com cites a source saying that Oswalt is “soon” to land St. Louis; better known by players as baseball heaven.

His time in Philadelphia was short, but memorable, highlighted by a torrid run after his arrival helping the Phillies win the division in 2010. The wiry Mississippi native seemed unhittable at times, resembling the dominant pitcher he had been during his career in Houston.

However, things weren’t always sunny for Oswalt.   He wasn’t nearly as dominant in the post-season, and recurring back trouble caused him to miss significant time in 2011.

Stats with the Phillies: Regular SeasonW/L 16-11 2.96 ERA 1.17 WHIP Post SeasonW/L 1-2 4.56 ERA  1.16 WHIP

With his time in a Phillies uniform essentially over, how did the Phillies make out in their trade with Houston in retrospect?

The Phillies continued their trend of acquiring starting pitchers at the trade deadline in 2010 when they traded for Oswalt. They obtained Joe Blanton and Kyle Lohse the previous two summers, which continued a fan-favorite tradition of dealing with former GM, Ed Wade. After being let go by the Astros, Wade recently took a job with the Phillies, adding fuel to all the conspiracy theorists’ speculation that Wade was out to help his former protégé, Ruben Amaro. I have a hard time believing Wade was giving away players to make his former pupil Ruben look good.

While I don’t intend to feed the fire, at the outset of the trade it appeared that the Phillies had fleeced the Astros. The Phillies sent LHP J.A. Happ, OF Anthony Gose, and SS Jonathan Villar to Houston in the deal. Happ was the toughest to watch leave, after finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2009. His 12 wins and 2.93 ERA came out of nowhere, making him an instant fan favorite. He dealt with arm trouble the following year, making only a few appearances before being dealt. Nothing about Happ’s stuff ever jumped out at you, but you can’t argue with his early success. He looked like a young Randy Wolf without the fan club.

Happ however was unable to replicate his rookie season success in Houston. He finished the 2010 season with decent numbers, but the warning signs were there. Happ’s control, which is critical to his success, started to go as shown by his rising WHIP of 1.374. 2011 was an utter disaster for the young lefty, as his ERA ballooned to 5.35 with a WHIP of 1.535. It’s hard to watch a pitcher lose it like Happ did, but it’s safe to say that Wade whiffed on this one.

Jonathan Villar was no more than a raw shortstop prospect in low A ball when the Phillies included him in the Oswalt deal. Like most prospects at this stage, it’s difficult to predict how they’ll turn out. Villar has shown some speed and power so far in the minors, but struggled after being promoted to AA. At 20 years of age, it’s premature to drop the gavel on Villar’s career. I’ll call this part of the deal a push, but breathe easy, it doesn’t look like Villar will turn into a Nomar or J-Roll.

Anthony Gose, the third piece of the pie, was a promising young outfield prospect in A ball, but with a surplus of athletic outfield prospects in the minors he was expendable. Gose didn’t spend much time in the Astros organization, getting flipped to the Blue Jays for first baseman Brett Wallace. The Astros may regret that trade as much as the Phillies, as Gose’s stock has risen the last two years. As my colleague John Stolnis mentioned in his recent column on Phillies’ prospects past and present, Anthony Gose was ranked #57 in MLB.com’s 100 top prospect rankings. Gose’s most valuable tool is his speed, as he wracked up a whopping 70 stolen bases in AA last year. He will need to shorten up his swing to cut down on the strike outs, but speed like that doesn’t grow on trees. I would feel a lot more comfortable about Shane Victorino’s pending free agency if Gose were playing for Reading next season.

Roy Oswalt’s tenure with the Phillies was invaluable, especially in 2010. The absence of another World Series the last two years leaves something to be desired, but it’d be unfair to put that completely on Oswalt’s shoulders. Given the fact that none of the players traded to Houston have had any major league success to date, I’ll give the win to the Phillies in this deal.

Then again, if Anthony Gose becomes the next Ricky Henderson, I will be eating my hat, right next to Ruben Amaro and Ed Wade.

You can follow Ethan’s Phillies thoughts on Twitter @Yearinbaseball and on Facebook.

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