Roy Oswalt and the Must Trade Clause

According to Jerry Crasnick, Roy Oswalt may announce today that he’s going to sit out the first half of the season, then make himself available to contenders for the second half of the season, also known as the late career model set by Roger Clemens. Oswalt rebuffed offers from teams outside his geographical preference, and by waiting June, he’ll leave open the possibility that either St. Louis or Texas will decide that they need him after all.

Still, training on your own and throwing bullpens at home isn’t the same thing as facing Major League hitters. While Oswalt can do his best to keep in top physical condition, he’s not going to be able to replicate a live game situation. And, any team looking to sign him this summer will have to take the lack of recent performance into consideration when they offer him a contract. That extra risk will likely drive the price down, and Oswalt will probably end up settling quite a bit less than he could have gotten if he signed with a team now.

So, here’s a thought – maybe Oswalt and his agent should invent the anti-no-trade clause. We’ll call it the Must Trade clause. Pick a team that could use a quality starter, plays in a pitcher’s park (in order to keep his value as high as possible), and isn’t expected to be a strong contender this year – say, for instance, the Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, or the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sign with them for something along the lines of the $8-$10 million for one year that Oswalt has reportedly been seeking from Texas or St. Louis.

However, make it a non-standard contract with a few interesting wrinkles.

1. The base salary is $5 million, paid out evenly over the course of the season.
2. There’s a $3-$5 million signing bonus, payable September 1st.
3. Oswalt specifies a list of teams to which he will accept a trade before the season begins.
4. If Oswalt is not traded to one of those teams by August 1st, he has the right to opt out of the contract and become a free agent.

Under this scenario, Oswalt is basically guaranteed to end the season with a team that fits his criteria for where he wants to play, and he gets more money than he will in any scenario where he sits out until mid-season. In addition, he gets to spend the first few months of the season facing Major League hitters hitters and proving that he’s still a quality starter. An expected also-ran gets a low cost rotation upgrade for the first half of the season and the chance to flip him for a interesting prospect at the deadline. And contenders can wait around and see how their roster shakes out before deciding if they want to bring in Oswalt for the stretch run.

Everyone wins. Plus, it’s interesting. What do you say, Roy? Want to be the first guy with a Must Trade clause in your contract?

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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10 years ago

Wouldn’t those teams looking to sign him just not trade for him and wait to see if he hits FA?

10 years ago
Reply to  Alec

Not if they think he might sign somewhere else. If you trade for him, he’s guaranteed yours for the rest of the year.