Trading within the division: Advantageous or to be avoided?

July 18, 2010 - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America - 18 July 2010: Houston Astros starting pitcher Roy Oswalt (44) delivers a pitch to the plate during the National League game between the Houston Astros and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates Paul Maholm.

While things change by the hour around this time of year, the latest trade rumors involving Roy Oswalt have him eventually landing in St. Louis. And based on recent reports, it sounds as if he wouldn’t mind wearing red and white at some point this season either. (Who could blame him? He pitches for the Astros, who dodge being the butt of jokes only because the Pirates have yet to climb out of the suckhole they fell into during the early 90s.)

Money (he’s owed $16 mil next season) and compensation (the Cards may have to part with top prospect Shelby Miller) remain the biggest hurdles in any trade involving Oswalt and the Cardinals, but the question of whether or not teams should trade within their division is relevant in this scenario as well.

Should teams avoid trading within their division? Is it wise for a general manager to either trade for, or deal a star that could come back and haunt them in the future? It still happens of course, but it’s always a topic of discussion when the trade deadline nears.

This may be a simplistic take on the subject, but isn’t the purpose for any GM to help their team win (either presently or in the future)? Isn’t that what a trade boils down to in the end?

Take the Oswalt rumors for example. The Astros are years away from competing and if Oswalt beats them once or twice a year, or helps the Cardinals win the NL Central either this year or next (or both), who cares? We’re not talking about two teams that are on the same level here when it comes to competing. The Cardinals are going to field a competitive team over the next couple of years whether they have Oswalt in their rotation or not. The Astros…not so much.

Whether he eventually strikes a deal with the Cardinals or the California Penal League, Houston GM Ed Wade’s only mission should be to seek the best compensation for Oswalt. If Miller is the best prospect he can acquire, then he has to pull the trigger. It wouldn’t make much sense to accept a lesser deal to avoid sending Oswalt to St. Louis, only because in the end this trade is about the future for Houston.

Granted, if Oswalt beats the Astros next year in the NLCS as a member of the Cardinals, then paint my face red and call me embarrassed. But something tells me the ‘Stros are a ways away from making it back to the league championship series.

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