This deal is a coup for the Phillies. They got a starter who would slot in as a number one on a great many teams and they got him for very little, both in terms of money and in terms of talent. Happ is a decent pitcher, but he's certainly not a special talent. He's a fly ball-prone lefty who, in Houston, will give up an awful lot of home runs into the Crawford Boxes. Gose and Villar are not special talents.
The Phillies have dug themselves a bit of a hole in the NL East, but they've been climbing out of it slowly but surely over the past week. Getting Roy Oswalt just gave them a big boost. If they make the postseason, the 1-2-3 of Roy Halladay, Oswalt and Cole Hamels will be the toughest in the National League.
That line about climbing out of their hole "slowly but surely" is something of an understatement -- the Phillies have won seven straight games and finally called up Domonic Brown and added Roy Oswalt to their rotation? I don't know if any team could do more in one week to bolster their chances. It's been a great week for the Phillies, and a lousy week for the Braves and the Reds and the Padres and every other team vying for a postseason berth.
And of course what's really amazing is how little the Phillies had to give up. For J.A. Happ and a couple of marginal prospects, the Phillies get Roy Oswalt for (at least) two months this season and all of next season, and it'll cost them only $12 million (if they don't exercise their 2012 option for $16 million) ... because in addition to Oswalt, the Astros are also sending along $11 million.
It's hard to believe the Astros couldn't have done better than this ... But then again, if they could have done appreciably better, wouldn't they have? It's not like the Mariners absolutely cleaned up when they traded Cliff Lee (though they did better than the Astros, for sure). It looks like teams are just terrified of veteran pitchers with big salaries, even when those salaries are perfectly commensurate with performance.
And there's nothing wrong with Oswalt's performance. He's a reasonable Hall of Fame candidate who's hardly living off past glories; his numbers this season are right in line with his whole illustrious career. He's still one of the better pitchers in the National League, and that doesn't figure to change anytime soon.
Finally, another word about the Astros. No, this doesn't look good now. But let's give it a year or two before passing final judgment, shall we? No, James Anthony Happ isn't likely to become the next Jamie Moyer (and even if he does, it'll be three or four teams from now). And no, neither Jonathan Villar nor Anthony Gose qualify as top prospects.
But both those guys are just 19 and they are prospects. My initial impression is that this is a great deal for the Phillies and a blah deal for the Astros, but the presence of two teenagers means every opinion is provisional.
And finally (I mean it this time), another word about the Phillies. Remember when everyone was saying how foolish they were for trading Cliff Lee last winter? Well, they traded Cliff Lee because they thought they could stock their farm system without seriously damaging their chances for another National League pennant.
Be honest ... Did you think they were wrong at the time? I didn't. I had the Phillies winning their division this year, and so did almost everybody else.
It didn't quite work out that way. So they've adjusted, and instead of having a great chance of winning with Cliff Lee in 2010, they've got a great chance of winning with Roy Oswalt in 2010 ... and in 2011.
Is there a smarter, more effective front office in the National League right now?