On Tangibles, Intangibles and the Trade Deadline

by enosarris on July 29, 2010

It seems that Roy Oswalt may be on his way to Philadelphia today in a pre-deadline trade. What remains is for Oswalt, the owner of a n0-trade clause, to okay the deal. With the Astros in last place and going nowhere, and the Phillies just two games out of a playoff spot, this is a no-brainer, right?

Not quite.

First, Oswalt has always been a strange bird. Just a few years ago, he talked about retirement, in the prime of his career. In a long interview with ESPN the Magazine’s Buster Olney, he talked about looking forward to working on the farm with his father. At the time, he was a 29-year-old ace that hadn’t shown any signs of decline yet, and here he was, talking about retiring in five years. He talked about wanting a tractor more than a fine sports car when he broke into the bigs.

Tractors aside, this looks like a man that puts value in intangibles. He enjoys Texas, likes being close to his family’s Mississippi farm, and obviously places importance on his family’s happiness. He’s married to his high-school sweetheart from a town with a population of 600. These all seem like things that might drive a man to strike down the trade.

Before you poo-poo such a gesture, it’s worth thinking about more deeply. Derrek Lee just said no to a trade to the more competitive Angels, but his situation might be a little different as a future free agent. He’d either have to be away from his family the rest of the year, or move his family twice in the frame of a year. That’s not very appealing.

And then there’s the whole question of how important day-to-day comfort should be for an athlete. They are conditioned to want to win daily, to yearn for that title, and and to be ultra-competitive. More than a few fans will question the heart of someone like Lee for his move, but it’s really hard to put a number on intangibles – hence the name. As a man that just moved to California from New York City for family reasons, though, I am sympathetic to such feelings. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to want to be where you want to beĀ  and win there. Tha doesn’t mean I don’t want to achieve my goals any less – I just place value in my surroundings and my family’s happiness.

Then again, there are some tangibles at play here, too. Oswalt has a $16 million option for 2012 that he reportedly wants picked up in order to waive his no-trade clause. Well, judging from his personal website (check out his new online store!), he keeps an eye on the prize. And, hey, he’s got to defray the cost of moving and those Pennsylvania income taxes somehow, right?

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