Pitching proves to be an important commodity and that's why Roy Oswalt topped the Phils to-do list. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
By Chris Bengel
Ruben Amaro Jr. will always be scrutinized for every move that he makes for the rest of his career. Once again he silenced the critics for the time being. Amaro acquired an ace starting pitcher for the third time the span of a year.
Amaro pulled off another blockbuster with the acquisition of Roy Oswalt. He shipped lefty J.A. Happ along with prospects Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar to the Houston Astros for Oswalt. The Phillies pulled the wool over Ed Wade’s eyes once again. Wade also agreed to pay $11 million of Oswalt’s current salary.
Clearly this was a move that needed to be made. Outside of Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, the Phillies have gotten little consistency from their starting pitching. Once again that will bring the, “Amaro should never have traded Cliff Lee,” argument. Let’s move on from Cliff Lee shall we?
Roy Oswalt voiced his displeasure and wanted out of Houston. Amaro knew that he needed to sure up his starting pitching. With the current rotation, the Phillies may not have been able to make a run deep into October. Oswalt helps to add yet another ace to the rotation. Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt may be the best top three in the baseball rivaling the San Francisco Giants rotation.
Oswalt is having an off year but he was on a struggling Houston Astros ball club. He was 6-12 with a 3.42 ERA with the Astros this season. However his career statistics are much more eye-popping. Oswalt is 143-83 with a 3.25 ERA in his 10 year career with the Astros. He is a big game pitcher and has been the ace of the Astros staff for many years. Coincidentally Oswalt has something that even Roy Halladay doesn’t have: postseason experience. Oswalt boasts a 4-0 postseason record and an NLCS MVP award which he earned during the 2005 postseason. He has also finished in the top five in National League Cy Young voting five times during his career. His credentials are very self explanatory.
It was a good move for the Phillies and came relatively cheap. Sure Happ is a fine young pitcher and did finish second in Rookie of the Year voting. I feel that he only translates as a third or fourth starter in the rotation. He also is 26 years old proving that he may not improve much more as he obtains more seasoning in the big leagues.
From the prospects side of the trade, Gose and Villar are highly touted prospects but are only 19 years old. It is impossible to know whether they will be legitimate major league contributors. Gose is considered to be very raw with elite speed. Villar has a rocket arm and projects as a nice infielder. But these prospects can not be counted on as much as a guy like Oswalt who has been a great pitcher.
Moves Not Made
The Oswalt trade was a great bargain and is looked at as a great success. But there are also some moves that Amaro failed to make.
First of all, the Phillies bullpen is suspect at best. There should have been more of an effort to obtain some relief help. Many names were available and teams were asking for a lot of prospects and talent. I really can understand Amaro being leery of trading away even more prospects. They have parted with quite a few in the last year.
But there were names out there that wouldn’t have cost the Phillies much at all. Kerry Wood could’ve been acquired without giving up hardly anything. The Yankees gave up a player-to-be-named-later and cash considerations. A move for lefty Will Ohman from the Orioles for a pitcher such as Mike Zagurski was another possible option. With Brad Lidge struggling, a reliever with closing experience would’ve been a great pickup. Outside of Lidge and Ryan Madson, no one in the Phillies bullpen has much closing experience. This is a move or lack there of may come back to bite them in the long run.
The bench is also something that should have been addressed. With the constant injuries to the infield, the likes of Wilson Valdez and Cody Ransom have filled in quite nicely. However a bigger contributor should have been acquired at the trade deadline. A player such as Cristian Guzman or Miguel Tejada wouldn’t have cost the Phillies more than a low level prospect and maybe some cash.
The current bench of Cody Ransom, Wilson Valdez, Ben Francisco, Ross Gload, Brian Schneider and Greg Dobbs hasn’t been awful this season but isn’t playing the way it was projected to. Gload boasts the highest average at .282 but many of the other bench players are struggling. The bench was in need of veteran presence. The Phillies don’t have a clear cut first guy off the bench to pinch hit. I suppose that title would be given to Francisco. Francisco has definitely been swinging the bat better. But I still feel that a trade should have been made. I would’ve loved to have seen Tejada in here as that guy. However Amaro didn’t feel it was enough of a priority and sat on his hands.
The Grade: B-
The Phillies made a splash by acquiring Oswalt. The ball club is definitely better than it was prior to the trade deadline. However a few pieces to the bullpen and bench needed to be acquired. The lack of these moves bring down the grade a bit and could hurt the Phillies in the long run. The Phillies are primed for another October run at the World Series, but I’m just not sure if they did enough maneuvering.