How much can the Astros get for Roy Oswalt?

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Roy Oswalt requested a trade from the Astros late last week and rumors are starting to swirl around the potential interested teams, but exactly how good is the 32-year-old right-hander?
Oswalt has been one of baseball’s elite pitchers for a decade, yet generally seems underrated for someone who ranks fourth among all active pitchers in both ERA and winning percentage while winning more games than everyone his age or younger except CC Sabathia.
He’s started at least 30 games in seven of the past eight seasons while posting an ERA above 3.55 just once during that span, yet is only a three-time All-Star and has never finished higher than third in the Cy Young balloting. Last year back problems limited Oswalt to fewer than 200 innings for the first time since 2003 and he posted a career-worst 4.12 ERA, but he’s been as good as ever this season with a 2.66 ERA and 60-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 61 innings.
Beginning with Oswalt’s first full season in 2002, he’s ranked 4th, 15th, 13th, 13th, 9th, 25th, 11th, 26th, and now 8th among MLB starters in Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP), which removes factors like bullpen and lineup support, defense, and luck from the equation to evaluate pitchers based strictly on things they control. At age 32 and with his two worst years coming in 2007 and 2009 he seems more likely to be a top-25 starter than a top-15 starter at this point.
However, even at his worst he’s been a low-end No. 1 guy and Oswalt’s strong work so far this year suggests getting back to the top-15 range isn’t out of the question. His contract is also a factor, as Oswalt is making $15 million this season with another $16 million due in 2011 and a $16 million team option or $2 million buyout in 2012. While around $26 million for 1.5 seasons or $40 million for 2.5 seasons is essentially the going rate for a true No. 1 starter, it may prove difficult for the Astros to both unload his remaining contract and bring back top prospects, particularly if the Mariners start shopping Cliff Lee at some point.

Rockies activate Ian Desmond from the disabled list

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The Rockies activated first baseman Ian Desmond from the 10-day disabled list on Sunday, the club announced. Cristhian Adames was designated for assignment to create roster space. Desmond is in Sunday’s lineup against the Diamondbacks, batting sixth.

Desmond, 31, signed a five-year, $70 million contract with the Rockies in December. In March, he was unfortunately hit by a pitch and suffered a broken left hand. He underwent surgery to repair the damage.

Desmond had been playing in extended spring training as a precursor to rehab games, but he looked so good that the Rockies decided to activate him from the disabled list a little early.

Aaron Sanchez exits game after one inning with a split fingernail

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This wasn’t how Aaron Sanchez was supposed to make his triumphant return from the disabled list. The Blue Jays’ right-hander was activated for his first start on Sunday after undergoing a minor surgical procedure to have part of his fingernail removed. According to MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm, the surgery should have accelerated the healing process for a troublesome blister, and the team appeared confident in the right-hander’s ability to take the mound for the tail end of their homestand. Instead, Sanchez lasted just 13 pitches before exiting the game with a split nail on his right middle finger.

The team has yet to address Sanchez’s revised timetable for return, but Chisholm points out that they should be able to roll with their current rotation through May 9. If he sits out longer, the Jays could turn to left-hander J.A. Happ, who should be eligible to start sometime next month after he makes a full recovery from a bout of left elbow inflammation.

Sanchez, 24, entered Sunday with a 4.38 ERA, 2.9 BB/9 and 6.6 SO/9 through 12 1/3 innings with Toronto. He was replaced by right-handed reliever Ryan Tepera in the top of the second inning.