Chicago White Sox: Roy Oswalt
According to one of the top executives and most respected men in baseball, the Astros are not in the mode to trade any of their players, most notably Roy Oswalt.
"The Astros owner, Drayton McLane, has always been steadfast on his direction of the Astros," the executive told me. "Mr. McLane will be more prone to adding to his team rather than trading his present players away." The executive added, "I read your blog and whoever told you Houston will continue moving Oswalt just wasn't correct."
The insider, who is one of the best-informed people in baseball, knows more about most of the team's intricacies than some people within those organizations.
"Mr. McLane believes in his management team," said the source. "And his players are someone who he believes in as well. I doubt that you'll see [the Astros] ever trading players just to save salary."
The source, however, did not deny that there are rumblings that Oswalt and manager Cecil Cooper have had problems with each other recently.
Although White Sox general manager Kenny Williams set the record straight on the Roy Oswalt rumors on Monday, White Sox captain Paul Konerko weighed in on the hot topic of Oswalt and other National League pitchers hesitating to come to the American League.
"I think for some of these guys, [it's] not that they're afraid of the American League, it's just that they've been in the National League for seven or eight years and have a comfort zone there," Konerko said. "There's also a comfort zone for guys who have played for the same teams and in the same ballparks for a long time. However, there's no doubt that American League lineups represent some very intimidating issues for pitchers."
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen also talked about the Oswalt rumors.
"I talked to Kenny [Williams] last night for about an hour, and the last thing he talked about was that he was happy the way the team was playing," Guillen said. "He didn't mention any names at all to me about trades."
The interesting part of Williams' quotes on Monday was that he didn't say he wasn't interested in any of the Astros players or pitchers. Major League Baseball executives are not allowed to mention other players' names in public when it comes to trade talks. Under MLB rules, that's considered tampering, which could result in fines for both the team and the general manager or manager.
"As a rule, I try not to get into the confirming or denying something," Williams said, "because when you start down that road, you set patterns and kind of tip your hand, and then you don't get anything done.
"So I'll make the exception so that everybody understands where we're at, so everyone can relax a little bit. I haven't talked to the Houston Astros about any pitching whatsoever. And this is now two weeks since I've had any conversation with Houston general manager Ed Wade."
Although Williams said he hasn't talked to Wade about Oswalt, Williams' comments wouldn't preclude the possibility that the Sox are interested in acquiring a pitcher of Oswalt's stature.
Williams was asked about Houston Chronicle story which reported that Oswalt has expressed a desire not to be traded to the Sox.
"How do you want me to respond to that?" Williams asked. "Do you want me to respond to something that we haven't made an overture toward? [Oswalt] probably hasn't been asked the question.
"And now someone has written about it, and multiple people are talking about it as though it was something that was imminent. The reality is it's just not."
Houston ace right-hander Roy Oswalt, stuck on one victory so far this season, is starting to hear his name bandied about in trade rumors.
Oswalt and Astros manager Cecil Cooper are reported to be at odds, and with the pitcher's poor record and team's abysmal two-month performance, Oswalt may be just the beginning of what could be a major rebuilding program in Houston.
One source close to the situation said Oswalt has a no-trade clause in his contract that covers another three years and an option year. That same source said Oswalt would prefer to stay in the National League.
So all the stories about Oswalt refusing to play for the White Sox -- for any other reason than the Sox are in the American League -- seem to lack substance.
Most National League pitchers such as Oswalt and Jake Peavy prefer to stay in the NL so they don't have to face a designated hitter.
Adding Oswalt would not only make the Sox favorites to win the AL Central Division, but a legitimate World Series contender.
According to major league sources, the Phillies and Brewers also are interested in acquiring Oswalt. Boston has coveted Oswalt, but the Red Sox are loaded with pitching, and most likely will be dealing a starter when John Smoltz is ready to return to the rotation in the next week to 10 days.
The White Sox should not have an inferiority complex about Oswalt not wanting to come to their team. It's more about a pitcher not wanting to see his ERA balloon and preferring to stay in the NL.
The White Sox's interest in Houston Astros players, and more directly pitcher Roy Oswalt, is real, due to circumstances surrounding ownership and management in Houston. According to baseball sources, Astros players and the coaching staff seem to be at odds these days.
This isn't uncommon when you have a mostly veteran team playing below-average baseball. Former All-Stars like Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejada will be available to the right bidder by the trading deadline.
Moving the popular Oswalt, the face of the Astros, is another matter. Houston, like San Diego with Jake Peavy, will move Oswalt and his $72 million contract if they can get three or four top young prospects from somebody's farm system.
The White Sox, being as aggressive as they always are, would not be afraid to pull the trigger on a deal that would bring a top-caliber pitcher under contract control into their system. White Sox general manager Kenny Williams has Mark Buehrle for three more years and Gavin Floyd and John Danks for four. Chicago would love to add a quality pitcher like Oswalt or the Giants' Matt Cain to that list.
Having four top starting pitchers under fixed contracts for a long period of years allows Williams and assistant general manager Rich Hahn to project expenditures in the future in order to build the rest of their roster. The White Sox could have almost $40 million coming off of their $98.5 million payroll in the 2009-10 offseason, as Jim Thome ($10 million), Jose Contreras ($11 million), Jermaine Dye ($11 million) and Octavio Dotel ($6 million) all are free agents come November.
The White Sox are right in trying to add a veteran pitcher who's on the younger side if they can. Another World Series team could be developed rather quickly on the South Side with one bold move like a trade for Oswalt. According to baseball sources, Oswalt has a no-trade clause that he must waive before any deal involving him can take place.