Fake trade: Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman to Mets for Ike Davis

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Mets acquire RHP Roy Oswalt, 1B Lance Berkman and cash from the Astros for 1B Ike Davis, LHP Oliver Perez and SS Ruben Tejada.
Why it works for the Mets:
First, let’s get this out of the way: there’s no way the Mets would trade Davis straight-up for Berkman. Even ignoring salaries, I can imagine a number of Mets fans writing in and saying Davis is the better player right now. After all, the soon-to-be 23-year-old has hit .292/.402/.472 in 72 at-bats since being called up, while Berkman has needed a few strong games in a row to get up to .239/.357/.479 for the year.
Berkman, though, has never finished a season without an OPS better than that current 874 mark for Davis. He’s likely on the decline at age 34, but I think he’s a pretty good bet to come in at around 900 for a couple of more years.
And, Davis isn’t really being traded for Berkman here; he’s the price for getting Oswalt and dumping Perez’s contract. The Mets probably couldn’t just swallow the contracts of Berkman and Oswalt whole. Those two are making $29.5 million this year (about $6 million of which has already been paid out), and Oswalt is guaranteed $16 million next year. Oswalt also has a $16 million option with a $2 million buyout for 2012, while Berkman has a $15 million option for next year with the same $2 million buyout.
Perez is making $12 million this year and $12 million again next year, so this deal, as is, would cost the Mets about $21.6 million, once the buyouts are factored in. I think the Astros would still have to throw in some cash to make it work.
Why it works for the Astros:
Houston GM Ed Wade can’t expect much in return for his stars, given their salaries and the fact that they wield no-trade clauses. If ownership forces him to simply dump the contracts, then the Astros will have to settle for less-than-stellar prospects. If, however, Wade has the flexibility to take a bad contract or two in return, then he could do quite a bit better. There aren’t many teams out there that can just take on Oswalt’s $16 million salary, but if they can shed an $8 million-$10 million player in the process, it becomes more palatable.
That’s the idea here. Davis would immediately step in for Berkman and give the Astros the long-term first baseman they don’t currently have in their system. Tejada is no future star, but I can see him serving as a regular shortstop for 10 years. He’d also play at second base in the event that Tommy Manzella turns into a player or if 2009 first-round pick Jiovanni Mier develops.
Why it won’t happen:
Big contracts and no-trade clauses make trades much more complicated, and this has plenty of both. Plus, the Mets and their fans have taken quite a liking to Davis. And it’s for good reason. Still, I think he’s expendable; he’s going to be an above average regular if he’s not one already, but he’s just a first baseman and one without 35-homer potential.
So, this deal isn’t happening. The Mets may well try for Oswalt alone at some point, with the Astros likely to ask for Jon Niese or Jenrry Mejia in return.

Report: Qualifying offer to be in the $18 million range

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According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, teams have been told that the qualifying offer to free agents this offseason will be in the $18 million range, likely $18.1 million. The value is derived by taking the average of the top 125 player salaries.

At $18.1 million, that would be $900,000 more than the previous QO, which was $17.2 million. This will impact soon-to-be free agents like Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Yu Darvish, among others. That also assumes that the aforementioned players aren’t traded, which would make them ineligible to receive qualifying offers. We’ve seen, increasingly, that teams aren’t willing to make a QO to an impending free agent and that trend is likely to continue this offseason.

The QO system was modified by the newest collective bargaining agreement. The compensatory pick for a team losing a player who declined a QO used to be a first-round pick. That was a penalty to both teams and players, which is why it was changed. Via MLB’s website pertaining to the QO:

A team that exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season will lose its second- and fifth-highest selections after the first round in the following year’s Draft as well $1 million from its international bonus pool. If such a team signs multiple qualifying offer free agents, it will forfeit its third- and sixth-highest remaining picks as well.

A team that receives revenue sharing will lose its third-highest selection after the first round in the following year’s Draft. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its fourth-highest remaining pick.

A team that neither exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season nor receives revenue sharing will lose its second-highest selection after the first round in the following year’s Draft as well as $500,000 from its international bonus pool. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its third-highest remaining pick.

Additionally, if a player who rejected a QO signs a guaranteed contract worth at least $50 million and came from a team that receives revenue sharing, that previous team will receive a compensatory pick immediately following the first round in the ensuing draft. If the contract is less than $50 million, that team will get a compensatory pick after Competitive Balance Round B. If the player’s team is over the luxury tax threshold, that team will receive a compensation pick following the fourth round. If that team neither exceeded the luxury tax nor receives revenue sharing, the compensation pick will come after Competitive Balance Round B.

Yeah, it’s a bit convoluted, but you do the best you can with a flawed system.

The Astros’ pursuit of Sonny Gray is “heating up”

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Jon Morosi of MLB Networks reports that talks are “heating up” between the Astros and Athletics on a Sonny Gray trade. Gray, obviously, would represent a big upgrade for the Astros’ rotation. He has a 3.66 ERA and has struck out 85 batters while walking 28 in 91 innings.

Morosi adds that Gray is not the only option for the Astros, as they are also talking to the Tigers about a potential acquisition of Justin Verlander and Justin Wilson. That would obviously be a much tougher deal to negotiate given Verlander’s 10/5 rights giving him veto power over any trade, not to mention the massive amount of money he’s still owed on his contract.

Also: I’m pretty sure that it’s in the MLB rules that any trade between the Tigers and the Astros has to involve Brad Ausmus, C.J. Nitkowski and Jose Lima, and that’s not possible given their current occupations and/or their deaths in 2010.