With the glory years clearly in the rear-view mirror, I will take the next couple of weeks to review the major transactions that led up to the best period in Philadelphia Phillies history and how it impacts the team today and going forward. The previous three installments can be found here, here and here.
Today’s focus: July 29, 2010, the Houston Astros trade Roy Oswalt to the Phillies for J.A.Happ, Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar.
Background: The Phillies were coming off their second straight pennant but a World Series loss this time around. They found themselves 3.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves by the time of the trading deadline and wanted to make a move to add a top pitcher for their playoff run. The Astros were about to begin their massive tank/rebuild effort and needed to begin shedding their top stars.
Evaluation for Astros: Happ was a pedestrian starter for the Astros for two years before being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays as part of a package for Francisco Cordero. Cordero was released less than two months after he was traded for. Gose was immediately swapped for Brett Wallace (the same player who was swapped immediately for Michael Taylor in the Roy Halladay trade a few months earlier). Wallace was a top prospect for many years but flamed out in the majors before being released this spring. Villar, still only 22 years old, debuted as a bench player last season and projects to be the Astros’ starting shortstop this season as they await for their top prospects to finally take hold of the team.
Evaluation for Phillies: Oswalt did his job in 2010 by pitching lights out the remainder of the season and helping the team win their fourth consecutive division title. In the playoffs, he held his own in Game 2 of the NLDS and was lights out in Game 2 of the NLCS. He pitched effectively in 2011 as part of the super rotation when he was able to pitch but spent most of the season on the disabled list. Oswalt lost Game 4 of the NLDS, a game that would have clinched the series for the team. His option was declined following that season and he has recently retired.
Who Won?: Marginally, the Phillies. Oswalt was a good pitcher for them in 2010 when they needed him most, but overall his tenure was somewhat disappointing considering his career trajectory at that point. What tips this the way of the Phillies was the fact that what the ended up giving up for Oswalt did not pan out as the Astros planned. Villar turned out to be solid and even overachieved his own stock, but Happ and Wallace did very little for the Astros considering the hype around them. Regardless, this trade will forever be remembered as a result of letting Cliff Lee go.
What If They Didn’t Trade For Oswalt?: The Phils would have either traded for another starter, giving up a similar set of prospects, or attempted to win the division with what they had at the time: Halladay, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick and Happ. It is uncertain if they would have advanced to the NLCS or beyond without Oswalt, but he was instrumental in their playoff run that season.
What’s Next? Cliff Lee yet again.