With the trade deadline now six days away in Houston we've been waiting for over a month now for the team to pull the trigger on Roy Oswalt. The complication is the fact that he has a no trade clause and wants whatever team who picks him up to guarantee his $16 million option for next season. There appears to be two front runners and a dark horse in this competition. The Cardinals and Phillies followed by the Dodgers. Oswalt apparently is willing to restructure his deal with the Cardinals if he ends up in St Louis. As much as I'm a big believer of not trading within your own division the Cardinals minor league system is fairly stacked and have the most to offer...and of course Houston fans would still get to see Oswalt when he comes to town to visit. Which is the amazing thing about Astros fans, they're not blaming Roy, they want him to have a chance to get a ring and know he'd be in the Cy Young discussion if he had a better offense behind him.
So, let's evaluate who I believe the Astros should target in this sweepstakes.
St Louis Cardinals
I never really knew how deep their farm system is until I began looking at players to trade for. Now some will say I may be asking too much for one player, but Roy's numbers are as good as the other Roy's, he just doesn't get the recognition since he doesn't play on the East Coast.
1. Jaime Garcia, SP, MLB
9-4 2.21 ERA 90K 24 years old.
This should be their number one target. Someone on the Cardinals rotation will be losing a spot and though Garcia has been dynamite this year how badly do you want the Wizard of O who has been lockdown? If I'm Houston, I'll accept Blake Haawksworth, but I want the rest of the players I mentioned as well instead of two of the three. Another bonus for Houston is Jamie went to high school in Mission, Texas and they love bringing the home town kids in.
2. Allen Craig, LF, AAA
.308 11HR 65RBI 26 years old
With Matt Holliday on the team for a good long while Craig doesn't have much hope of moving to the MLB team on a permanent basis. Yes, he spent some time in majors this season and didn't do fantastic but it was his first real prolonged trip and he's been a consistent hitter in the minors. I'm a big believer that Carlos Lee should be sent packing ASAP so by trading for Craig you can allow him to play in the majors for the rest of the season.
3. Matt Carpenter, 3B, AA
.320 8HR 36RBI 25 years old
For my money the Astros biggest problem position is third base. Why they paid money for Pedro Feliz I'm not sure, but it is what it is. I'd try to get a bag of balls and some bats for him at this rate. Chris Johnson has shown promise, but nothing I would say I feel comfortable about not having insurance. Carpenter has only spent two season in the minors and has been a rocket ship playing his way up to AA this year. Another local kid from Sugar Land when it comes to positional players this is a must have in this trade.
4. Manuel De La Cruz, P, Rookie League
4-0 1.04 ERA 23K 20 years old
The most impressive of the Cardinals really young pitching this is an attempt to actually bolster the Astros fairly benign farm system. If Cruz continues to pitch as he has this year he easily could be on the fast track to the majors in three years time...or less.
The Phillies are at a disadvantage, their farm system has been depleted over the last few years. They're gonna have to offer up a great bounty to surpass the Cardinals.
1. Jayson Werth, OF, MLB
.280 13HR 52RBI 31 years old
In Houston Werth would be moved to the Left Field and Carlos Lee would be shipped to Chicago, Detroit, somewhere else where he can be DH. Now the problem with Werth is his contract is up at the end of the season. By moving Lee they could afford Werth, but would he stay around for the rebuild being 31? At the very least the Astros should get some draft picks.
2. Drew Naylor, P, AA
9-7 3.86 73K 24 years old
The big right handed Aussie shows how little the Phillies farm system is. They traded a lot away last two years for Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. Their AAA team is filled with 30 year olds. A former bullpen he's done well with starting and has a nasty curve ball.
3. Jesus Sanchez, P, A+
8-5 2.69 71K 23 years old
Jesus Sanchez is the last remaining prospect from when the Phillies traded Abreu to the Yankees. A former catcher turned pitcher he still has plenty of years ahead of him and gives the Astros another solid arm in their farm system.
4. Jonathan Singleton, 1B, A
.307 11HR 55RBI 19 years old
This is the real gem of the trade. The Phillies are HUGE on Singleton as they should be, this kid is the real deal. They would have to give up Singleton to be able to surpass the Cardinals. I'm not quite sure that Houston has someone as quality to eventually replace Berkman at first base. Being 19 there is no immediate pressure to bring him up to majors any time soon.
5. Cesar Hernandez, 2B, A short
.284 0HR 14RBI 9SB 20 years old
A throw in since Naylor and Sanchez don't bring too much and Werth could be gone sooner rather than later. I chose Hernandez for one reason, speed. The guy has 9 stolen bases in 34 games and you can just imagine a line up that one day would have the combined speed of Hernandez and Bourn.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are in an interesting situation. They are only 6 games out of the first place Padres, but they don't have anyone on the MLB roster they can really give up for Oswalt. So for them to even get into the race they're going to have to give up some prized prospects.
1. John Ely, SP, AAA
3-1 3.24 16K 24 years old
Arguably the Dodgers most prized pitching prospect, he'd have to be involved in an Oswalt trade. The Astros would likely bring him up the minute he arrived in town and let him get his feet wet for the rest of the season. Some would argue sending James McDonald, but those are Dodger fans who don't want to lose Ely.
2. Russ Mitchell, 3B, AAA
.318 16HR 61RBI 25 years old
In a certain sense Mitchell would be the key for me in the trade. I think he could come up to MLB and begin contributing immediately for the Astros. Adding Mitchell to the team would give the Astros a very talented young infield, with a the replacement for Berkman the next piece.
3. Jerry Sands, 1B, AA
.281 9HR 20RBI 23 years old
Sands shows some great promise, but may be lacking the power you want from a first baseman. Still he is one of the better hitters for the Dodgers' AA team and should be able to compete for the MLB team in two years.
4. Christ Withrow, P, AA
3-5 5.09 82K 21 years old
This kid has a great deal of potential to be a strikeout machine. He's still young at 21, already in AA and strikes out batters like a mother. He has a lot to work still to do to make the MLB, especially if his home stadium is a hitters park like Minute Maid.
5. Ethan Martin, P, A+
9-8 5.23 85K 1 Complete Game 21 years old
Like Withrow Martin is a strike out machine but needs to get that ERA down. What is promising is that he had a complete game this year. That means the talent is there just has some work. Adding Withrow and Martin to their farm system gives the Astros a pair of possible aces for the future.