As we approach the 2010 MLB All-Star break, there is one topic that always seems to be more attention-grabbing than watching your favorite slugger launch rockets to the moon; one subject that nearly always trumps the festivities of raising money for charity, and playing a single game to determine home field advantage.

MLB trade rumors.

And while every passing year seems to offer at least one major topic of interest, the 2010 season is presenting the fans with not one, but two distinct trade possibilities that have Chatty Cathys everywhere talking up a storm.

The subject of uber-interest has to do with where exactly Seattle Mariner Cliff Lee and Houston Astro Roy Oswalt will wind up before the trade deadline.

But who exactly is the better trade is an even more intriguing question.

I decided to break down the two powerhouse pitchers’ trade value with that same question in mind, and while I WILL NOT delve into the specifics of interested teams, I will instead attempt to simply look at the same areas that interested teams would look at: money, age, skill set, and overall value.

Yes, talking about the interested teams does in fact change the landscape of the debate, but that’s not what I am going for; rather, I am simply trying to show who is the better overall value.

So without further ado, let us meet the two pitchers.

Cliff Lee
31 years old
96-55 with five career shutouts, and a K/9 rate of 6.8
Nine years in the league

Analysis: There is no denying the overall value of someone like Cliff Lee becoming available in trade talks with his irrefutable penchant for managing games, being a force on the mound, and possessing an above-average ability to be a starting rotation leader in more ways than one.

So it’s obviously no surprise that Lee is one of the biggest potential acquisitions out there for teams in need of a true pitching ace.

Lee first grabbed the attention of most in his 2004 season where he lit up the majors with a very impressive 14-8 record despite a curious 5.43 ERA.

Lee followed up that performance in 2005 with an 18-5 record with a much improved 3.79 ERA.

But it was the 2008 season that wound up becoming his banner year (all with the Indians mind you) that really opened up everyone’s eyes as Lee dazzled fans, and baffled nearly every batter he faced going on to brandish a 22-3 record with a 2.34 ERA; a career-best season and a performance that awarded the flamethrower the Cy Young Award.

A year later, however, Lee became the victim of injury and mediocrity, finishing his lengthy career with the Indians sporting a 7-9 record with a 3.14 ERA, causing many skeptics to believe that Lee was nothing more than a fluke; a one-timer; a pitcher who had his fun in the sun and a player who had reached his peak.

It wasn’t until the Philadelphia Phillies scooped him up at trade time did Lee not only bounce back, but showed that he was anything but a fluke going 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA in the regular season—and more importantly—going 4-0 with an astonishing 1.56 ERA with a 7.4 K/9 rate in the postseason for the Phillies.

This season after being traded to the Mariners, Lee had once again dealt with injuries in the early goings only to recover rather nicely where he sits on a 6-3 record with a 2.39 ERA while boasting an almost unimaginable 76 strikeouts to only four walks.

At the end of the 2010 season Lee becomes a free agent, basically making him a high profile rental player who comes at a cheap price. So whether it’s a team looking for a quick shot in the arm, or a team looking to sign a long-term ace, Lee seems to fit the bill and the obvious better choice.

But not so fast.

Roy Oswalt
32 years old
142-80 with six career shutouts and a K/9 rate of 7.4
10 years in the league

Analysis: There is probably no other name more synonymous with the title “workhorse” than Roy Oswalt. No other pitcher in the majors is known more for his durability and penchant for winning than the long time face of the Houston Astros franchise: Roy Oswalt.

Roy Oswalt is a two-time 20-game winner, a six-time double digit winner, a three-time All-Star, and unfortunately as of late, the victim of horrible run support regardless of how he pitches.

Oswalt came out of the gates in his 2001 rookie season pitching lights out and ending the year with a 14-3 record and a remarkable 2.73 ERA showing the world—and Astros fans—what was to come.

Aside from the current season, there hasn’t been a single year where Oswalt threw fewer than 8.0 strikeouts per game.

Despite having less than desirable run support for a good portion of his career, Oswalt still managed to smoke batters on a daily basis.

And even through hard times and injuries, Oswalt still showed he could play through them, or quickly bounce back from them.

Now in 2010, his time in Houston is starting to wear thin, and it was Oswalt who decided it was perhaps time to go.

But there is some dead financial weight associated with Oswalt..

Unlike Lee, Oswalt comes with a heavier price tag (over $25 million residual) which seems to make him option number two to most suitors.

Or does it?

Renting vs. Buying.

As stated before, depending on what team shows interest in each of these pitching powerhouses has a lot to do with this debate, but we’re not here to just talk about the obvious.

The real question comes down to who is the better deal.

Roy Oswalt’s contract is listed at $16 million in 2011 and 2012, which is more money than Cliff Lee has garnered in his entire nine-year career ($23,555,300 in nine years, according to The Baseball Cube).

That’s a lot of meatloaf on the dinner plate.

Cliff Lee’s contract is listed at eight million with a $1 million buyout, which equates to approximately $4.5 million residual that any given team would have to assume for the rest of the season.

Oswalt can be acquired for a minimum of two years right off the bat, giving an interested club flexibility on their future plans, while Lee will ultimately demand a long term contract either right off the bat or at the end of this year.

Oswalt has the proven name, Lee is the curious sleeper.

So just who is the better deal?

The Author’s Take:

Both pitchers are over the age of 30, and while that doesn’t always translate into negativity, the real question comes down to security .

In my opinion, taking Oswalt over Lee (assuming you have quality run support and an ample bench) gives you a pitcher who is comparable in price, but more importantly, a bit more proven.

This is not to say that Cliff Lee isn’t going to do well wherever he goes, but it’s each player’s overall career that is the tiebreaker.

Yes, both pitchers are similar in numbers, but in regard to games played and accomplishments, Cliff Lee unfortunately doesn’t compare in the experience department.

Yes, both pitchers have dealt with injuries, but it hasn’t seemed to have any lasting ill effects on either of their overall performances, showing both to be durable.

Oswalt has been there and done that for 220 plus games; Lee 151.

In the end—whomever you take—you’re going to pay a hefty price for a staff ace who can simply come in and take control, but when you add in reliability, durability, and experience along with the money, the decision basically makes itself in my opinion.

My call:
Roy Oswalt is the better deal.

So what’s your call? Leave a comment below, get the debate going and don’t forget to let everyone know why.

Ray Tannock is also an NFL columnist and MLB Editor at



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