First order of business: Roy Oswalt? Really?
In fact, the Astros have been talking with Cardinals GM John Mozeliak for several days now, and Oswalt is quite amenable to go to St. Louis if the teams can agree on what players will head back to Houston. For their part, the Cardinals are convinced that matching Roy Oswalt up with Dave Duncan would take a guy who is already an ace and turn him back into the Cy Young candidate he was a few years ago. I'll stop believing stuff like that when Dave Duncan actually fails for once. Which I wouldn't bet on, frankly.
Of course, the big issue everyone has been talking about today has been Oswalt's desire that his 2012 option be picked up. That's $16 million, and that ain't hay. My source tells me, however, that Oswalt would be willing to work with the Cardinals to make the option more palatable, possibly in terms of deferring some money. The sides aren't quite that far yet.
Bernie Miklasz, for his part, says Oswalt and Haren each are "longshots." But his more relevant tweet comes here: "If Ludwick gets a raise, Cards have around $85 million committed to 10 players for 2011. Oswalt is guaranteed $16 mil in '11. Tough $ fit."
If you're looking for a big midseason acquisition Oswalt is That Guy; even in his diminished 2008-2009 capacity he struck out three batters for every walk, and even though short pitchers should never, ever, ever start—did you get that, Jess Todd?—he's as durable as any starter you'll find, having made 30 starts in seven consecutive seasons. His velocity is basically the same as it's ever been, too—he's been between 92.6 and 94 since 2002, although he throws it less now than ever. He's having a fine season now, despite leading the league in losses, and has the misfortune of playing in Houston.
But let me show you these contracts, and you can tell me if you think they fit together:
|2010||$15 M||$17 M||$16 M||$14.5 M||$4.7 M||$8.8 M|
|2011||$16 M||$17 M||$16 M||$15 M||$6.5 M||$11.9 M|
|2012||$16 M||$17 M||$50 B||$15/1 M||$9 M||$11.9 M|
That's a pretty expensive rotation to field in the first year of Pujols's megabucks contract—either that or the Cardinals basically trade Carpenter, whose 2012 contract has a $1 million buyout, for Oswalt, who supposedly is requiring any team that acquires him to trigger his own club option. In 2012 that's $69 million for the five people on this list whose name isn't Albert Pujols.
So either Oswalt defers a lot of money, Kyle Lohse announces he's leaving baseball to join the Peace Corps, Albert Pujols decides $16 million sounds about right after all, or this trade doesn't work financially for the Cardinals. I love Roy Oswalt as a pitcher; he throws hard, he works fast, he's got an array of pitches but always knows when to go back to the fastball. But his contract just doesn't fit.
And that's without bringing the players the Cardinals would trade into the discussion. Shelby Miller's a long way away—he threw five scoreless innings and struck out eight last night—and risky, too, but if you're going to trade Miller you can probably get better players with less-onerous contracts coming back in the deal.
But hey, Jaime Garcia! He's cheap! The Cardinals developed him in-hour, at times with considerable doubt as to how it would work out, and now he's 9-4 with an ERA of 2.21. Looking back on a season I'm loath to remove all of the "luck" factors from a pitcher's line; Chris Carpenter really didn't give up many home runs in 2009, and Jaime Garcia hasn't given up many in 2010. But to judge what we'll get from him the rest of the year I think xFIP is a useful indicator; before last night's game it stood at 3.74.
He's great, and the way he pitches portends greater things; I love all four of his pitches—as Al Hrabosky said repeatedly last night, his fastball moves, because he's a left-hander! but there's more—and at times he seems to demolish a lineup with radar-guided Chris Carpenter accuracy. But he's not all the way there yet; if his walk rate doesn't go down in the future we're probably witnessing the best year of his career. Of course, we might be anyway; he's having an outstanding year.
Last night was Garcia at his most representative—lots of strikeouts, that awkward situation at the end, and finally just one earned run. I like to watch him, and I like to watch him more at $400,000 a year.