There's some smoke billowing around the Roy Oswalt-to-the-Nationals rumors, if nothing close to fire yet. We still don't know if an Oswalt trade to the Nationals is a possibility - Astros owner Drayton McLane is hardly known for giving up on a season, and the Nationals will have plenty of competition for the Houston ace. But if the Nationals could pull off a trade, it would be a change in direction for a team that hasn't had occasion to be a buyer in the mid-season trade market - not to mention a possible coup for a wild-card bid.
I'm mostly guessing here, but a quick glance down the Astros' organizational roster shows a farm system that's been thinned out over the years. A couple of the Nationals' pitching prospects - maybe someone among the group of starts that have made major-league cameos, along with someone in the group of starters at Triple-A Syracuse or Double-A Harrisburg - could be a start. The Nationals have a large group of starters who are close to the big leagues, but who mostly haven't had success in the times they've been up to the majors. Something tells me it's worth shopping a couple of those players before their stock slips in the eyes of other teams. But the problem is that so many of them (Garrett Mock, Ross Detwiler and Jordan ZImmermann, though I can't see him going anywhere) are hurt right now.
I know opposing scouts have said good things about Stammen recently; they like his mound presence and his demeanor, and he has sharper stuff than he did last season, when he was pitching with bone chips in his elbow. We've only seen those results sparingly, though, and the Astros got to see him struggle up-close last night. Shairon Martis is a possibility - he's only 23, and showed flashes of big-league success early last season - but he's struggling at Syracuse right now.
Another name to watch is first baseman Chris Marrero. The Astros have no successor to Lance Berkman in their system, and Marrero could be expendable, especially if the Nationals extend Adam Dunn's contract and have him hold the position until they could move Bryce Harper there.
So would a package of, say, Martis, Marrero and someone like Brad Meyers or Tom Milone, coupled with the Nationals picking up a good chunk of the $29 million remaining on Oswalt's deal, get it done? It's hard to say until you know which other teams are involved, though an addition of Stammen to the above package might sweeten the pot enough. But I don't think most of those prospects are revered enough around baseball, with the possible exception of Marrero, to get a deal done.
I've seen a few John Lannan suggestions, and here's why that doesn't make sense: For all the youngsters the Nationals have coming (Stephen Strasburg and Zimmermann, primarily), Lannan is still one of the only proven commodities they have. Plus, he's arbitration-eligible after this season, and will probably land somewhere in the $2.5-$3 million range, so if a key element of trading Oswalt is to shed salary, Lannan isn't a great choice. I don't know that the Astros are in selling mode - they've still got a lot of expensive veterans, and McLane hasn't been afraid to open his wallet - but there are cheaper pitchers available than Lannan.
One more disclaimer: This all amounts to high-minded dart-throwing at this point. I don't have any information that these players are involved, or that a trade is even possible beyond the initial inquiries the Nationals have made. These are just a few names I think could be involved if a deal did come together.
Any other names that jump out to you? What do you think it would take to get Oswalt here?
Here was MLB Trade Rumors' take on the idea -- just saw this now, so I'm adding it to the post.