“Chicago might not be the most logical place to start when looking at the Phillies’ recent acquisition of Roy Oswalt, but for those who are interested in the decision-making that went into the deal, it was impossible to ignore the White Sox’ 4-1 victory over the Athletics.
On an otherwise anonymous Sunday afternoon, two young starters making $3.15 million between them combined to throw 15 innings, with five earned runs, 10 hits and 16 strikeouts between them.
The performances would be irrelevant, except for one fact: Four years ago, A’s lefthander Gio Gonzalez and White Sox righthander Gavin Floyd were both in the Phillies‘ farm system.
In the 3 1/2 years since the Phillies shipped Floyd and Gonzalez to the White Sox for soon-to-be-injured starter, Freddy Garcia, they have fared far better in their attempts at bolstering their major league rotation through name-brand additions. Kyle Lohse, Joe Blanton and Cliff Lee all played pivotal roles in the club’s three consecutive postseason berths, and Roy Halladay is doing the same this season.
But while the Garcia situation may have proven to be a small smudge in a blueprint that ultimately resulted in a world title, it does illustrate the sacrifices involved when cheap depth and potential are exchanged for expensive upgrades.
In little more than a year, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has moved boldly to trade for three pitchers – Lee, Halladay, Oswalt – who have combined to finish in the Top 5 in Cy Young voting 12 times. In exchange, he has parted with three young pitchers – Carlos Carrasco, Kyle Drabek, J.A. Happ – who are either major league ready or close to it.
In 2007 and 2008, the Phillies traded away four other young starters who have combined to start 112 games in the majors in 2009 and 2010. Floyd and Gonzalez, later traded to the A’s, are both fixtures in their team’s rotations this season. Lefty Josh Outman, dealt for Blanton in July 2008, started 12 games and posted a 3.48 ERA last season before undergoing elbow surgery. Lefty Matt Maloney, dealt in 2007 for Lohse, has allowed four earned runs in 11 2/3 innings in two starts for the Reds this season and is 9-5 with a 2.91 ERA in 18 starts at Triple A.
It is difficult to argue the return. Since 2007, the Phillies have accumulated seven postseason series, a world title, and a present-day rotation that features two veteran ace-quality starters.
But for every opportunity there is a cost, and for the Phillies that means seven young pitchers who could still be under club control and roughly $39.5 million in payroll space for the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
It also means that their success from now until the end of next season depends on whether or not the depth and payroll flexibility they have sacrificed catches up to them.”
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