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Originally Published: June 4, 2010

A whole lot goes into trading an ace pitcher

By J.P. Ricciardi
ESPN
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Since May 21, trade rumors have been swirling around Roy Oswalt when the Astros right-hander expressed his desire to be dealt.

Oswalt has a full no-trade clause and about $28 million left on a five-year, $73 million contract he signed before the 2007 season. But he has made it clear that he wants to play for a World Series contender before the end of next season. He's currently 3-7 with a 2.78 ERA for an Astros team that sits 11 games back in the National League Central. As a former general manager of the Blue Jays, I've been in my fair share of challenging trade talks and contract situations. So how should Houston handle their veteran ace?

[+] EnlargeRoy Oswalt
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireRoy Oswalt is 3-7 with a 2.78 ERA in 11 starts so far this season.
First, the Astros need to bring Oswalt in, sit him down, and decide as an organization if this is something they want to do. If the answer is no, then they simply need to tell Oswalt, "As a unified front office and ownership group, we don't want to trade you and we're not going to look to trade you." End of conversation.

But if the organization is willing to explore the possibility of a trade, then the Astros have to make Oswalt and his agent a big part of the process. Oswalt's full no-trade clause is a huge hurdle here. If Houston fielded serious offers from other teams but Oswalt didn't want to go to those clubs, he could kill the trade discussion. So if the Astros hurler wants the team to deal him, he needs to be flexible about waiving his no-trade clause to more than three or four teams.

General managers don't want to be in a situation in which they can only deal with three teams and then find out that some of those clubs aren't even interested in a trade (or can't offer up worthwhile players). That's why it is so important for the front office and the player requesting a trade to have an open dialogue about everything that is going on. When we were shopping Roy Halladay, there wasn't one phone call I made or received that we didn't inform him about. He was part and parcel to the whole project.

It's also important to remember that, as outsiders, we don't know the full extent of Oswalt's intentions. In Toronto, I once had two players tell me that they loved the Blue Jays organization but wanted to be traded because they didn't like living in Canada. I was able to get something good for them and they were dealt, but no one knew the real reasons until after the fact. Oswalt has said that he just wants to go somewhere and win, but maybe he has told Astros GM Ed Wade things that we don't know about.

There are so many parameters involved in trading a big-time pitcher, but you can trust that Wade wants to win just as much as Oswalt. He actually has a lot more to lose because his tenure as a GM is shorter than that of his players' careers.

Oswalt is an intense competitor who has great stuff: Teams like the Mets, Red Sox, Nationals, and Cardinals -- among many others -- could completely change their playoff outlook by trading for him. He's played his entire career in Houston and, in a perfect world, it'd be great if it could all work out. But he'll eventually get moved and, as we all know too well, the business of baseball is never perfect.

J.P. Ricciardi is an analyst for "Baseball Tonight."

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