Seven points about the Roy Oswalt trade to the Phillies:
1. This is bad news for the Cardinals, Reds and any other club thinking wild card. The Phillies already had closed to 3 1/2 games of the division-leading Braves and within 2 1/2 games of the wild-card leading Giants on the strength of a seven-game winning streak that was fueled by an offensive resurgence.
With Oswalt, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, the Phillies have the second-best 1-2-3 rotation trio in the league (after the Giants). Count on the wild card coming out of the NL East, which should make the races in the Central and West even more entertaining.
2. This makes the 2010 Phillies better than the ’09 Phillies. When Chase Utley returns, that is. The reason: Halladay, Oswalt and a back-to-form Hamels are better than Cliff Lee, Pedro Martinez and whoever was the Phillies’ third-best starter last October.
3. The Phillies still shouldn’t have traded Cliff Lee. No knock on Oswalt but he’s not pitching like Lee. And the Phillies would have had Lee for the entire season, not two months. And …
4. The Phillies gave up more to get Oswalt than they received from the Mariners for Lee.
For Lee, the Phillies received OF Tyson Gillies, RHP J.C. Ramirez and RHP Phillippe Aumont. At best, Gillies projects as a Brett Gardner-type left fielder, Ramirez as a back-end rotation guy and Aumont, who knows after the way this season has gone. The 6-7 right-hander has been a disappointment, being demoted from Class AA to A where he has been pitching in relief. "He’s been awful this year," a scout says. "His command is off the charts bad. He will flash you plus stuff but he can’t command. I think he’ll end up as a bullpen guy."
To get Oswalt, the Phillies traded LHP J.A. Happ, OF Anthony Gose and SS Jonathan Villar. Even if Gose and Villar don’t pan out, Happ already has shown he can win in the major leagues, going 12-4 with a 2.93 and winning Sporting News’ NL Rookie of the Year in 2009. He will make his first start for the Astros Friday night.
Gose, 19, has plenty of speed and a strong arm but is considered raw. For example, he has 36 stolen bases in Class A but has been caught 27 times. Villar, 19, was considered an up-and-comer by the Phillies. In low Class A this season, he was hitting .272 with 38 stolen bases — but 42 errors at shortstop.
5. Trading for Oswalt doesn’t hurt Philly’s chances of retaining Jayson Werth. Because the Astros have agreed to pay a large chunk of Oswalt’s salary — $11 million of the $23 million-plus he’s guaranteed through 2011, according to reports — the Phillies are in much the same situation with Werth as they already were. Which means …
6. Werth might not return next year but he figures to be with the Phillies as they make a run at history. They are trying to become the first team to win three straight NL pennants since the Cardinals in the early 1940s.
7. Joe Niekro’s record is safe. The late knuckle-baller will remain the Astros’ franchise leader in wins. Oswalt could have tied Niekro’s total of 144 with one more win, and he was scheduled to start for Houston Friday night. Instead, he’ll go for win No. 1 with the Phillies at Washington.
Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at email@example.com.