Oswalt says trade request all about winning
Ace has a few teams in mind, reiterates he didn't demand deal
HOUSTON -- Roy Oswalt wants another chance to pitch in the World Series and take one more shot at winning a championship ring. And with his contract set to expire following next season and the Astros in last place in the National League Central, it's hard for him to envision getting that opportunity unless he changes addresses.
More than anything else, Oswalt said that was the reason his agent informed Astros owner Drayton McLane he would like to be traded from the only club he's known, the team that took a chance on him in the 23rd round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft and watched him blossom into one of the game's premier pitchers.
Oswalt addressed the media at his locker on Saturday for the first time since his trade request became public a day earlier, and he was candid about his future and his options.
"It was kind of an in-house thing that my agent and I were talking about for a little while," Oswalt said. "The biggest thing is doing the right thing the right way and not trying to cause a distraction, I guess you would say. I know it's going to be a bit of a distraction because of the intensity of it.
"But as far as the organization, I've been here 10 years and have given everything I've got for 10 years and done everything I've had to do to stay on the field to win. Hopefully, there may be some options for both of us out there. I'm not looking for an out for me. I think from the standpoint as a franchise player for 10 years, it would be good for both of us."
Astros general manager Ed Wade acknowledged on Friday that Oswalt's agent, Bob Garber, phoned McLane this week and requested the three-time All-Star be traded. Oswalt has a no-trade clause, and he said Saturday he wanted to be traded to a contender. He has "a few" teams in mind, but didn't name any of them.
"I didn't demand a trade," Oswalt said. "Some report came out saying I came in griping about a trade. I just kind of asked about my options, what they were taking as far as which direction they're going. Are they going to plan to get young or get more [veteran] players or what direction are they going? They didn't really have an answer for what they were going to do right now, and I thought if they were going to try to get young -- they have the option on my side that if they want to use a player to get younger players -- that I would be available to do that."
The Astros, who haven't been to the playoffs since their only World Series appearance in 2005, appear to be in a transition phase. They have several high-priced veterans -- Oswalt, Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee -- who are in search of their first championships, but there's a lack of talent at Triple-A Round Rock.
Oswalt, 32, is in the fourth year of a five-year, $73 million contract that will pay him $15 million in 2010 and $16 million in '11. His contract includes a $16 million team option for '12 or a $2 million buyout. He posted 20-win seasons in 2004 and '05 and has won 139 games, with a lifetime 3.21 ERA in his 10-year career.
He's six wins shy of breaking Joe Niekro's all-time franchise wins record and would likely have smashed it by now had he gotten more run support in recent years. Oswalt's run support this season is 2.07 per game, which is the worst in the NL. He's 2-6 with a 2.66 ERA, despite nine quality starts.
The Astros began play on Saturday with a 15-27 record, worst in the NL. With Oswalt, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte leading the way in 2005, the Astros rallied from a 15-30 start to reach the World Series. But Oswalt said times are different.
"There's a different stance, I guess you would say, in the organization," he said. "Now, we're close to that record and the stance isn't the same as it was in '05. It's not like I'm not happy here. This is the only place I know. They gave me a chance to play since '97, and I've always wanted to finish here. I wanted to win, too. If we go into Spring Training and not willing to win the whole thing, there's no sense in playing."
Oswalt has never been one to seek the spotlight, and he admitted he's been surprised by the way the story has been perceived.
"I've read a few reports where someone said I had a bad attitude in the clubhouse, which is the most furthest thing [from the truth] I've ever seen in my life," he said. "It's pretty much just made-up comments from a person [who doesn't] really know a lot about it.
"I knew that once it broke, it would get more attention than anything else I've done in the big leagues. That's part of it. The biggest thing I've seen here and there is the fans are behind me. That's my main concern. I don't want the people here in Houston to think anything less than trying to do what's best for the organization."
Oswalt said his teammates have been supportive, and he didn't expect any awkwardness if he had to finish the season in Houston. He's scheduled to make his next start on Wednesday against Chris Narveson in Milwaukee.
"I'm going to compete and hopefully go out there and keep the game close and hopefully win some games," Oswalt said. "You never know. We may take off and start winning some games, a bunch in a row. It won't be awkward for me. As far as the players, too, I don't think it's really any different for them."
There will likely be no shortage of interest in Oswalt, considering his track record and how well he has pitched to begin the season. The trick now is finding Oswalt a new home in which he's given a chance to compete in a pennant race. And who knows? He could return to Houston.
"It could be good in both circumstances," he said. "If there's a team out there that has a few younger guys that could make the team more competitive a year or two from now. I even told Drayton I'd love to come back here and finish my career here, and I may play another year here just to do that if they want me. This is what I know. I want that opportunity in the next two years, where if I can still compete, to have another chance."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.