Houston’s Best Trade Chip

In the midst of a disastrous season, the Astros seem to finally admit that they need to rebuild. Their franchise pitcher, Roy Oswalt, has requested a trade, and the team seems willing to accommodate him in finding a new home. Besides Cliff Lee, Oswalt is the most talked about name on the market as we head toward the trade deadline.

I wonder, however, if Oswalt is merely the Astros’ second most marketable pitcher. Hiding in the shadows, Brett Myers is quietly putting together an excellent season, and while he doesn’t come with Oswalt’s pedigree, neither does he come with the baggage of a huge contract and a no-trade clause.

Oswalt is the better pitcher, certainly. Going forward, ZiPS projects Oswalt to throw 110 innings and allow 47 runs, while Myers is projected to pitch 80 innings and allow 40 runs. Given that the innings difference will have to be made up by relievers, a team would be projected to save about 10 runs over an equivalent number of innings by acquiring Oswalt instead of Myers.

10 runs, or about one extra win. Is that really worth the cost difference? Myers will cost just over $1 million for the remainder of the 2010 season, while Oswalt’s contract will pay him about $5 million in August and September. For teams with strained budgets, that money could be a significant factor, but of course, the real cost differences kick in next season.

Myers will almost certainly decline his part of the mutual option and become a free agent this winter, so the acquiring team will have no long term commitment, and could potentially even recoup some compensation if they offer Myers arbitration and he signs elsewhere, as he has a chance of pitching himself into Type B free agent status.

Oswalt, on the other hand, is due $16 million 2011 and either another $16 million in 2012 or a $2 million buyout of the final year. Even if the acquiring team exercises the buyout, they will end up having paid $22 million for a little less than one and a half season’s of Oswalt’s services.

There’s a pretty good case to be made that a team would be better off with Myers and the $21 million they would save by going for the lesser Astros arm, which would give them more flexibility to make other moves to additionally improve their roster. Oswalt is the better pitcher, but it’s hard to argue that the gap is large enough to justify the differences in salary.

The Astros will almost certainly trade both pitchers at some point in the next month. Just don’t be surprised if they get a better return in prospects for Myers than they do for Oswalt.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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13 years ago

agree with the premise of the article

agree with the conculsion.

not for the reasons you think

When any conclusion goes along the lines of “just dont be surprised…” and it involves the astros, I promise you I wont be surprised. I wouldnt be surprised if the astros get back Aumont, Kyle Kendrick and an unknown Japanese player who isn’t even contracted to the phillies for Myers.

I wouldnt be surprised if they gave up oswalt for the rights to braden looper.

I wouldnt be surprised if they guaranteed oswalt’s extension. .

I won’t be surprised with the astros dave, and I can lump most of your readers in my boat I think.

That doesnt change from the otherwise excellent article.