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Roy Oswalt is Available: Can the Dodgers Afford Him?

In news that has perked up the ears of Dodger fans everywhere, Roy Oswalt has formally requested a trade from the Astros.  Per Bernardo Fallas of the Houston Chronicle:

Asked if Oswalt had demanded a trade, [general manager Ed] Wade said: "I’m going to put my tongue in my cheek and say that Roy’s contract includes a no-trade clause, not a trade-me clause. There is no rule that allows a player in his contract status to demand a trade. Demand, request ... it’s all the same and duly noted."

He declined to discuss the issue further.

[Drayton] McLane is not disappointed by Oswalt’s request.

"No. Roy is like I am. Those of you that have known me for 18 years, do I want to win? Do I want to be a champion? Absolutely," McLane said. "And they want to win. So they want to know which direction we’re headed, and that’s something we’ve got to consider."

Oswalt, 32, has thrown a quality start in all nine starts this year, and has a 2.66 ERA and 3.48 FIP.  He has averaged over six and a half innings per start for his career, and for six of the last seven years.  He has a career 135 ERA+, the fifth highest among active pitchers with 1,000 innings.  Oswalt is certainly a front line starter, but he also comes at a front line price.

Per the indispensable Cot's Contracts, we see that Oswalt is making $15 million this year and $16 million next year, and he has a club option for $16 million in 2012, with a $2 million buyout.  If Oswalt is acquired at the July 31 trading deadline, he would have roughly $5.2 million left on his 2010 salary.  That means he would have approximately $23.2 million left on his contract.  He also has a no-trade clause, so don't be surprised if a condition for waiving that clause is to guarantee the option.  That increases the guaranteed money due Oswalt to $37.2 million.

The Dodger payroll this season is approximately $96 million, after $110 million last season.  In acquiring George Sherrill, Ronnie Belliard, and Jim Thome in 2009, the Dodgers added $2.3 million to the payroll during the season.  Next season, the estimated payroll is at $92 million, and that's without replacements for Manny Ramirez or Hiroki Kuroda.  The payroll estimate does include $6.5 million for George Sherrill through arbitration, a sum that screams "non-tender," so there could be some flexibility to add Oswalt's $16 million salary.  Still, I remain skeptical that the Dodgers will take on this kind of a salary, but I would love to be pleasantly surprised.

The Astros, with the worst record in the National League, could pay a portion of Oswalt's contract as well to add prospects, or as the Dodgers call it, "pulling a Pierre."  The Dodgers agreed to pay $10.5 million of the $18.5 million owed Juan Pierre, and got new sensation John Ely (and Jon Link) from the White Sox in return.  Maybe if the Astros pay  a large portion of Oswalt's salary, they could get their own John Ely.  Maybe even Ely!