(UPDATED: 4:45 p.m.)
When rumors began to heat up the other day that the Philadelphia Phillies were pursuing Houston pitcher Roy Oswalt — the gem of baseball’s trade deadline — I mentioned that such a deal could put pressure on the Braves to make a move.
Well, it just happened
After reports surfaced late Wednesday that the Phillies and Astros had specifics of a trade in place, ESPN and Fox Sports now are both reporting that Oswalt has waived his no-trade clause and signed off on the deal. The Astros will get pitcher J.A. Happ and two prospects in return.
Oswalt will start for the Phillies in Washington Friday night.
What does this mean for the Braves? Simple. They need to do something.
The acquisition of Oswalt doesn’t guarantee Philly will overtake the Braves in the National League East. But it’s a significant and aggressive move by a three-time defending division champion, one that should madate a response by Braves’ management.
General manager Frank Wren said the other day he was uncertain if the team needed to make a move before Saturday’s non-waiver traded deadline, but can there be any doubt now?
Everything Wren has done of late has been about setting the Braves up for a pennant run in Bobby Cox’s final season as manager. Most notable: The recent trade of shortstop Yunel Escobar to Toronto for Alex Gonzalez — a deal more about this year than the future — and the demotion of center fielder Nate McLouth to the minors.
With Oswalt joining the Phillies, it would be risky, at best, for the Braves to settle for what they have. The team needs offensive help, preferably somebody who plays center field. They also may need a reliever, with Eric O’Flaherty on the disabled list, Jesse Chavez just plain awful and Kenshin Kawakami having apparently been lost in a black hole.
Is it panic time? Not at all. But worry time, maybe.
The Braves lost to Washington today. They’re 6-7 since the All-Star break and their lead over Philadelphia in the East is down to three games (pending the Phillies’ game tonight at Arizona). The Phillies are only 8-6 since the All-Star break, but they have won seven straight and scored 41 runs in the last six games. They’ve hung around despite being wrecked by injuries most of the season (second baseman Chase Utley and center fielder Shane Victorino currently are on the disabled list).
Now, Philadelphia has Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Oswalt at the top of its starting rotation.
If Wren doesn’t respond with a deal, he will be playing a dangerous game.
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