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Phillies got a great deal in landing Oswalt

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Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

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OK, as I wrote earlier Thursday, I still don’t understand why the Phillies traded Cliff Lee in the first place.

But in conversations with a number of executives about the Roy Oswalt deal, the consensus was that the Phillies came out significantly ahead on the balance sheet.

The consensus opinion seemed to be, “Why did the Astros send the Phillies $11 million in addition to Oswalt and not receive better players in return?

Easy for others to say: The Astros would respond that the perception of Oswalt’s market was better than the reality, and that they needed to act sooner rather than later, knowing that he could affect two pennant races instead of one. And hey, they still saved about $12 million.

Still, all the Astros got for their money and a year-plus of Oswalt was a No. 4 starter, left-hander J.A. Happ, plus two 19-year-old prospects in A ball, one of whom they flipped to the Blue Jays for Triple-A first baseman Brett Wallace.

Not exactly a windfall, considering that $11 million is about 1-1/2 times than teams generally spend on an entire amateur draft — without losing an Oswalt in the process.

There’s another side to this as well.

If the Phillies could obtain a year-plus of Oswalt for a relative bargain — approximately $12 million, Happ and two kids who are years away from the majors — then where were the Mets? Where were the Dodgers? Where were all the other clubs that are desperate for a top-of-the-rotation starter?

Some of those questions had valid answers. Oswalt, armed with a no-trade clause, had the right to veto any deal. Teams such as the Cardinals just didn’t match up with the Astros. Other clubs viewed Oswalt as too big a risk due to his history of back trouble.

The last thing the Mets need, for example, is another medical concern. But hold on. The first thing the Mets need is a top-of-the-rotation complement to lefty Johan Santana.

Mets officials indicated last off-season that they refrained from signing mediocre free-agent pitchers to retain flexibility for the deadline. The Mets could not have offered the equivalent of Happ, and the Astros were insistent on getting “a centerpiece” in the deal, sources say.

But, with creativity, perhaps the Mets could have crafted an appealing package. And a year-plus of Oswalt at $12 million should have been affordable – heck, it’s the rough equivalent of what the A’s gave righty Ben Sheets in free agency.

The Dodgers, unlike the Mets, clearly were interested in Oswalt, but the talks stalled after the Astros asked for first baseman James Loney. Like the Mets, the Dodgers could not offer anyone like Happ. But some of their advanced pitching prospects are highly regarded, and again it’s worth asking: The Dodgers could not have matched the Phillies’ offer?

Of course, most industry observers believe that both the Mets and Dodgers are in financial binds to some degreee, so perhaps Oswalt at a discount rate was still too much.

The point is, the Phillies made a heck of a deal for Oswalt, at least judging from initial reactions.

The Astros?

It remains to be seen what they got for their $11 million and a year-plus of Roy O.

Tagged: Astros, Dodgers, Mets, Phillies, Roy Oswalt, J.A. Happ

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