Can Cardinals afford Roy Oswalt?

Suddenly the hot rumor is Roy Oswalt and the Cardinals, and our friend Craig Calcaterra was one of the first (if not the first) with the news (or rather, the rumor). Craig:

Of course, the big issue everyone has been talking about today has been Oswalt's desire that his 2012 option be picked up. That's $16 million, and that ain't hay. My source tells me, however, that Oswalt would be willing to work with the Cardinals to make the option more palatable, possibly in terms of deferring some money. The sides aren't quite that far yet.

As for that option: my and everyone else's sense on this as the news spread about it today was that wanting the option exercised would effectively scuttle any deal. If Oswalt is willing to be flexible on it, however, it wouldn't be daunting. And let's not forget: Oswalt bargained hard for a no-trade clause, and one of the things he gave up to get the security that he'd stay in Houston was a guaranteed pay check in 2012. If he's going to lose in-season home he's come to love in Houston, it's not unreasonable to expect that someone is going to have to pay for it.

So that's the state of play: The Cardinals are hot for Oswalt, and Oswalt likes the idea. Now let's sit back and see if these kids can work something out.

Can the Cardinals afford Oswalt's $16 million salary next season and spend whatever it takes to keep Albert Pujols?

I don't know.

I do know that a rotation including Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright and Roy Oswalt -- is going to win a lot of games, almost regardless of who's playing first base.

If management is pessimistic about locking up Pujols after this season, spending $18 million on Oswalt next year -- his $16 million salary, plus a $2 million buyout -- might be fairly easy to justify. Exercising that 2012 option might even be justifiable, because if you're not going to score a ton of runs you've got to save them. Plus, they might as well make a big World Series push now, while they still have their first baseman.

If management is optimistic about locking up Pujols, spending $18 million (or perhaps $36 million) might not be justifiable, simply because the revenue's not there (the Cardinals already sell a lot of tickets and their market limits their ability to raise ticket prices).

But Optimistic and Pessimistic aren't the same as Zero and One. There's a lot of room in the middle, which is what makes this thing tricky. Nobody said it was supposed to be easy.