Oswalt wants out—what’s he worth?

For a decade, Roy Oswalt has led the Houston Astros’ rotation. The former 23rd-round draft pick compiled nearly 40 Wins Above Replacement over the 2001-2009 seasons, and he’s off to a fantastic start for an Astros squad that can’t hit a lick.

According to Fangraphs, ‘Stros batters have a collective -70.1 park-adjusted Batting Runs. For comparison, the Pirates rank 29th in the bigs with -36.8 Batting Runs. Even with a strong starting rotation (Houston’s starters rank third in the majors with a 3.98 xFIP), the Astros own a wretched 15-27 record. Oliver projects the team to just barely avoid triple-digit losses, at 63-99. Houston’s future is grim–they’re old, expensive and have perhaps the worst farm system in the majors.

And now, Oswalt wants out. The Chicago Tribune‘s Mark Gonzales reported that the 32-year-old righty requested a trade. The Houston Chronicle‘s Richard Justice’s (via Twitter) reported that Houston GM Ed Wade confirmed the trade request. So, what’s Oswalt’s trade value? Will the Astros re-stock the system by dealing him?

First, let’s establish the terms of his contract. Oswalt will make $15 million in 2010, $16 million in 2011 and has a $16 million club option for the 2012 season, with a $2 million buyout. Oswalt can opt out of the 2012 option and take a lower buyout figure. He has a full no-trade clause as well.

MLB: Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

The long-time Houston ace remains a very good big league starter. So far in 2010, Oswalt has 8.85 K/9, 2.36 BB/9 and a 2.66 ERA. He’s dealing, but his batting average on balls in play (.273) and rate of stranding base runners (81.9 percent) are likely to regress back toward his career averages (.306 and 76.4 percent, respectively). Oswalt’s expected FIP (xFIP), based on strikeouts, walks and a normalized home run per fly ball rate, is 3.29.

For the rest of 2010, Oliver projects Oswalt to toss 144 innings with 7 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 3.53 ERA. That performance would be worth an additional 3 WAR on top of the 1.7 that he has already provided this season. Let’s say that the Astros pull the trigger on an Oswalt swap sometime in July, and he throws 90 frames for his new team. That would make his 2010 contribution to his new employers worth about 1.9 WAR.

For 2011, Oliver forecasts 6.9 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 3.78 ERA in 193 innings for Roy. That comes to about 3.5 WAR. In 2012, Oswalt projects as a 2.9 WAR pitcher, punching out 6.5 batters per nine frames, walking 2.2 per nine and posting a 4.05 ERA in 191 IP.

A team acquiring Oswalt in July and declining his 2012 option would owe him $24-25 million–a pro-rated portion of his 2010 salary, his $16 million salary for 2011 and $2 million for the 2012 buyout. From July of 2010 to the end of 2011, Oswalt projects to be worth 5.4 WAR. So, he’s being paid $4.5-$4.6 million per WAR, right around what’s considered market value. A club picking up Oswalt in July and holding on to him through 2012 (this is assuming Roy doesn’t opt out) would owe him $38-$39 million and projects to get about 8.3 WAR in value. That works out to $4.6-$4.7 million per WAR. He doesn’t have much surplus value–Oswalt is being paid about market value, meaning his salary is an even match for his expected production.

Roy Oswalt remains an excellent starter. He’s also being paid like one, though. Considering Oswalt’s age, health concerns in recent seasons (hip and back problems), salary and say in which city he’s shipped to, the Astros shouldn’t expect other teams to offer up trade packages containing premium young talent.

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