Published July 23, 2010
If Roy Oswalt wants to be traded - really wants to be traded - he should start acting like it.
That means dropping any demand for a potential suitor to exercise his $16 million club option for 2012; his new team could compensate him for waiving his no-trade clause in a less extravagant way.
It also means staying open-minded on which teams he would approve for a trade; the Cardinals, his reported first choice, are not the only club with a chance to win the World Series.
Remember, Oswalt asked the Astros to trade him, relaying his request through his agent, Bob Garber, in May. Some rival executives find it galling that the pitcher now seems to be trying to orchestrate every term of his departure.
Players either negotiate their no-trade rights or earn them through service time; Oswalt should not simply give his away. But if his priority is to get out, then he should be flexible, about both his contract and his next club.
The Blue Jays felt they had no choice but to move Roy Halladay last offseason; they wanted to exploit his trade value and avoid paying him $15.75 million in 2010.
The Astros are not in as urgent a position.
If Oswalt only wants to go to the Cardinals and the teams cannot reach agreement on a trade, the Astros will simply keep him rather than make an undesirable deal.
Such an outcome is quite possible; the Astros are not enamored with the Cardinals' prospects, according to a source with close knowledge of the talks. Meanwhile, Oswalt is sending mixed signals about his other preferred clubs; his list is said to be "a moving target."
Halladay, though it was not known at the time, created no such confusion; he only wanted to go to the Phillies last winter, robbing the Blue Jays of leverage. The Jays, rather than pit teams against each other, actually had to send the Phillies $6 million to get a package they deemed acceptable.
Do not expect the Astros, under owner Drayton McLane, to cave in such fashion. If he moves Oswalt, it will be grudgingly.
McLane does not truly understand that his franchise needs to start over. If he did, he would order his general manager, Ed Wade, to shop every one of the Astros' veteran pieces.
Instead, the Astros are signaling that they would need to be "overwhelmed" to trade their second-best starting pitcher, right-hander Brett Myers. And they evidently are resigned to being stuck with first baseman Lance Berkman and left fielder Carlos Lee, both of whom have full no-trade clauses.
McLane, the Astros' owner since 1993, is not accustomed to the seller's role. He is said to be willing to include cash in a deal, but not much. One interested GM mused Friday that it might be impossible in to satisfy both Wade on players and McLane on dollars in an Oswalt trade.
Under such circumstances, Oswalt and Garber should be working behind the scenes to make this as easy as possible for the Astros. Halladay never publicly requested a trade or a new contract; the Phillies desired the extension as much as he did.
Oswalt is still an elite pitcher - not Halladay, not Cliff Lee, but a potential difference-maker in a pennant race. Still, he turns 33 on Aug. 29. He has a history of back and hip trouble.
His $16 million salary for next season is not unreasonable, particularly when you consider that A.J. Burnett will earn $16.5 million. But Oswalt told FOXSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi in spring training that he might retire after '11. Now, to approve a trade, he might require a team to pay him $16 million in '12?
If Roy O wants to win, it's not the responsibility only of others to make it happen.
It's his responsibility, too.