ASTROS, PHILS AGREE TO DEAL FOR OSWALT
Houston gains three younger players for ace pitcher
After a year in denial, the Houston Astros finally decided it is time to rebuild, trading staff ace Roy Oswalt to the Philadelphia Phillies for three younger players.
The other face of the franchise, Lance Berkman, could be next, if the Astros fetch a suitable package of prospects for the slugging first baseman by Saturday’s nonwaiver trade deadline.
Oswalt, a three-time All-Star, was sent, along with a huge chunk of change, to the two-time defending National League champions for promising left-handed starter J.A. Happ and two speedy prospects, outfielder Anthony Gose and shortstop Jonathan Villar.
Houston then traded Gose to Toronto for Triple-A first baseman Brett Wallace — a 23year-old who hit .301 with 24 doubles, 18 home runs and 61 RBIs at Las Vegas.
Wallace was Baseball America’s 27th-best prospect coming into the season. He immediately becomes Houston’s No. 1 prospect and its first baseman of the future. Wallace was assigned to Triple-A Round Rock, although his stay with the Express could be a short one if Berkman is traded in the next 24 hours.
Until this trade, Houston owner Drayton McLane had steadfastly refused to rebuild by trading older stars for prospects. He wanted to be competitive each year, but it became clear the Astros — fifth place last year at 74-88 and even worse this year at 42-59 — were going nowhere with a veteran team and a poor farm system at the upper levels.
In Philadelphia, Oswalt, a popular player in Central Texas from his Express days, won’t even be the biggest Roy in the rotation. He joins Roy Halladay, acquired from Toronto in the off-
season, and Cole Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP. Oswalt is scheduled to make his Phillies debut tonight, starting at Washington.
“It’s exciting getting into the middle of a pennant race,’’ Oswalt, 32, said. “I enjoyed my career in Houston, but you want to have a chance to play in the postseason.’’
The hard-charging Phillies are 31⁄2 games behind Atlanta in the NL East.
St. Louis also had been bargaining hard for Oswalt, who had to waive a no-trade clause in his contract.
Oswalt pitched extremely well this year with a 3.24 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 129 innings, but was saddled with a 6-12 record because of nonsupport. The Astros were shut out in five of his games.
“We salute what Roy did for the organization and the contributions that he made here over the course of his career in an Astros uniform, and his profile here is significant,” Astros general manager Ed Wade said.
“At the end of the day, we have to do what’s best for the Houston Astros. You can’t make a deal like this as a favor to a player. In this case I think we served everybody’s purposes.”
Oswalt is 143-82 with a 3.24 ERA in 10 seasons with the Astros. He is 4-0 in the postseason.
He is due about $5.33 million the rest of this season from his $15 million salary and is owed $16 million in 2011.
The Astros reportedly will send about $11 million to the Phillies as part of the package.
“I talked to Roy,’’ Phillies reliever and former Astro Brad Lidge said, “and he wanted to play for a winner real badly. This is the place to be.’’
Happ, 27, has made one start after missing three months with an elbow injury. He went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA and finished runner-up for the NL Rookie of the Year award last season.
Wallace is a stocky, thicklegged player with a great bat. He won the Pac-10 Triple Crown in 2007 at Arizona State, hitting .423 with 16 homers and 78 RBIs.
He is a former first-round draft choice who’s made several all-prospect teams.
“We had a chance to go out and get a guy who’s a really solid hitter,’’ Wade said.
Gose, 19, the player the Astros traded for Wallace, led all of the minor leagues with 76 stolen bases last year.
He had 36 steals this year, hitting .263 for Single-A Clearwater.
Villar, also 19, stole 38 bases and batted .272 for Single-A Lakewood.
Roy Oswalt is expected to start for Philadelphia today at Washington after being traded by Houston.