Rebuilding finally seems upon us in Houston as our two stars—Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman—have apparently requested trades. I think trading them is the right move because they have been too valuable to our team to justify not giving them the chance to compete for a World Series. The trade market has been stronger for Oswalt, but if the Astros shopped Berkman, I believe multiple teams would be interested in his services.
These offers could be like the Seinfeld episode where George suggests “trading Jim Leyritz and Bernie Williams for Barry Bonds.” It’s hard to gague the market considering contracts, etc. Nevertheless, in my humble opinion, here are the first three teams I would look to when considering trading our two stars and the initial proposals I would make.
Proposal #1: Texas Rangers: (1) Oswalt for Justin Smoak; or (2) Oswalt for Michael Main, Mitch Moreland and Jurickson Profar.
The Rangers are contenders this season, and with new ownership entering the picture, they can suddenly afford Oswalt’s salary. The trade would draw protests from many teams, but the Rangers are loaded with prospects who can help the Astros. I would have presumed Smoak is off-limits if not for ESPN reports implying the Rangers were considering trading him. If so, the Astros should jump on this offer, as Smoak has the potential to anchor the Astros offense for the next decade. Assuming the Rangers declared Smoak off-limits, a package of 2-3 mid-lesser prospects such as Michael Main, Tanner Scheppers, Kasey Kiker, Mitch Moreland, or youngster Jurickson Profar would make sense.
Proposal #2, Cincinnati Reds: Oswalt and Jeff Keppinger for Homer Bailey, Zach Cosart, Travis Wood, and Chris Heisey.
The Reds are in contention and have a plethora of major league ready prospects who would be perfect in Houston. The Reds need to clear a rotation spot for Aroldis Chapman, and trading several prospects would balance their roster for a post-season run. Assuming Keppinger would be enthusiastic about returning to the Reds, he would be a terrific throw-in as he could provide a veteran backup who can play multiple positions who would be extremely valuable down the stretch. The trade gives the Astros four players who would be immediate arrivals in the major leagues, and nobody would presumably be more enthusiastic about returning to Texas than Homer Bailey. Assuming the Astros have no faith they can move Carlos Lee, it might make sense to substitute third baseman Juan Francisco for Heisey.
Proposal #3, Washington Nationals: Oswalt for Chris Marrero, Danny Espinoza, and Destin Hood.
The Nationals have shown interest in acquiring Oswalt, but this seems almost inexplicable considering their team is better off patiently building around young talent. Nevertheless, the trio of Marrero, Espinoza, and Hood would give the Astros three players who could contribute to their lineup in 2-3 years. This trade is probably the most realistic projection of the prospect value Oswalt would command on the trade market.
Proposal #1, San Francisco Giants: (1) Lance Berkman for Madison Bumgarger; OR (2) Berkman and Jason Castro for Buster Posey and Thomas Neal.
Berkman/Bumgarner was a trade we proposed prior to the season, and we still believe it would help both teams. I believe Berkman would be a perfect fit in the Giants’ lineup, and would make them a serious contender in the National League. Despite recent issues with Bumgarner, Houston is the perfect spot for him to learn to pitch because we can afford to have him deal with any growing pains. Assuming the Giants and Buster Posey is not working out, Berkman/Castro for Posey/Neal would be a great trade. If the Giants have any concern about a catching prospect who can handle their pitchers, Castro is an ideal target who could wait patiently until next season. Both Catchers would presumably welcome the trade because Posey would get a full-time job while Castro (a Stanford product) would get to play in the Bay Area. The Astros would be receiving a solid upgrade with Posey while receiving another decent prospect in Neal.
Proposal #2, Oakland Athletics: (1) Lance Berkman for Chris Carter; or (2) Berkman for Grant Green (or Jemile Weeks) and Tyson Ross.
This trade would only make sense for the cash-conscious A’s if the Astros agreed to eat a hefty percentage of Berkman’s contract. Like the Giants, Oakland has a legitimate chance to compete these season assuming they can add a legitimate power bat to their lineup. Assuming the Astros could not get Smoak from the Rangers, Carter gives them an excellent first baseman with the potential to carry their offense for many years. Assuming Oakland would not trade Carter, Green or Weeks provides the Astros with a solid middle infielder who could take over next season. Tyson Ross is a solid pitching prospect who could bolster the middle of our rotation in the future.
Proposal #3, Tampa Bay Rays: Berkman and Matt Lindstrom for Jeremy Hellickson, Reid Brignac, and Alexander Colome.
This would be a lot (possibly too much) for the Rays to sacrifice, but the trade fills two holes on an otherwise dominant team, making them an overwhelming favorite to win the World Series. Having Berkman as DH provides them with a legitimate left-handed power threat while Lindstrom gives them another power arm in their bullpen. Plus, the Rays are loaded with prospects at pitcher and middle infield. Here, the Astros pickup two prospects who can immediately contribute in the major leagues (Hellickson, Brignac) plus Colome, a pitcher offering tremendous upside for the future. This offer is probably more realistic if the initial offer involved Matt Moore instead of Hellickson.