Roy Oswalt hath descended from the mountaintops to declare himself available to pitch for the right team and presumably, the right price. Thank goodness, because I was just sitting in a bean bag chair wondering exactly what baseball would do without Ol’ Roy. Honestly, the kind of impact this guy could have might be measured in World Series championships. He practically dwarfs the comeback of Michael Jordan to baseball with the manner in which he could affect a team, nay a whole division or even all of baseball. He might just be that important. Or not.
When baseball fans last got a glimpse of Oswalt throwing off of a real pitcher’s mound in a real game, he was not exactly about to run off with a trophy named after Cy Young. Oswalt finished his version of 2011 with a career high in ERA (3.69), WHIP (1.338), H/9 (9.9) and a career low in SO/9 (6.0). Pitching effectiveness aside, Oswalt’s health was the biggest issue in 2011, and it should also be on the minds of anybody interested in signing RO.
Oswalt has thrown for the Phillies and Red Sox, and he has already declared his intention to be a starter and not a reliever. He potentially makes sense for a number of teams, and the 2 teams that met in the last World Series are among them. Is he worth the risk? If so, what is he actually worth to a potential contender?
If the various sports outlets were abuzz with “Oswalt can no longer pitch” rumors, then this article would not be worth the 11 minutes taken to author it. However, no such news abounds, and Oswalt probably looked about normal for someone who would likely require a month or more to be prepared to throw a pitch that really counts in a game. That said, he almost has to be worth the risk to some team desperate for another arm just to eat up some innings. Despite the fact that he basically pitched just 2/3 of a season in 2011, he still managed 2.0 WAR for the Phillies. If he can manage anything close to his “bad” numbers from last season for about half a season in 2012, he conservatively could provide a team with 1.0-1.2 WAR. A reasonable guesstimate puts his payroll number at around $4-5M for a few months of renting the little “O”.
Then again, there exists no law, bylaw, or principle that dictates MLB teams or even players have to be “reasonable”. Just think in terms of all the teams within 5 games of the wild card lead and the corresponding payrolls for each of them. For some it might be reasonable to take on Oswalt and the associated salary bump in order to try to catch lightning in a bottle. For others, the risk might be deemed too great or the price too high. Which is which, though?
- Angels (5 games back) – $151.7M
- Mariners (4.5 games back) – $79.5M
- Tigers (3 games back) – $132.5M
- White Sox (2.5 games back) – $95.9M
- Red Sox (2.5 games back) – $173.1M
- A’s (2 games back) – $54.5M
- Yankees (1.5 games back) – $207.2M
- Blue Jays (2nd in AL WC) – $82.1M
- Rays (leading AL WC) – $63.2M
- Astros (4 games back) – $59.0M
- Pirates (4 games back) – $50.9M
- Phillies (3.5 games back) – $173.1M
- Mets (1 game back) – $91.6M
- Giants (1 game back) – $129.4M
- Reds (.5 games back) – $81.3M
- Marlins (2nd in NL WC) – $99.7M
- Braves (leading NL WC) – $92.7M
Granted, Oswalt has expressed a variety of preferences since last season. At different times, he has specifically gone on record as favoring a contending team, a team relatively close to home, an NL team, a team that allows sock puppets in the club house, and a team that will pretty much guarantee him a starting role. Just go ahead and toss out those preferences for a moment. Does anybody really think that Oswalt would turn down a huge payday to go to an AL team, located far from home as long as that team is contending? After all, we’re really only talking about 3 months plus the playoffs at most. That said, here is my top 5 list in descending order of handicapped chances.
- Phillies – He has already done the dog and pony show for the Phillies, and the team stands only 3.5 games back of the WC lead. Oswalt’s familiarity with the team, the city, and especially the primary catcher could sway him back to the City of Brotherly Love. Also, the Phillies may have noticed that the clock is really ticking on their window of opportunity, and adding Oswalt wouldn’t be a huge addition to the opening day payroll. The recent injury to Vance Worley might even make Oswalt more attractive than he was before the injury.
- Rangers – Despite looking like the best team in the AL, the Rangers have to remain concerned about the starts they have been getting from both Matt Harrison and Derek Holland. Although they have other options, it would be a shame to move Ogando from what currently figures to be one of the top shutdown bullpens in the league. Maybe the Rangers were just doing their “due diligence” in checking on Oswalt, but that might be another way of saying “looking to sign”. Also, signing Oswalt keeps him from the competition, and bringing that factor into play would be a savvy move right now.
- Blue Jays – Despite having the best run differential in their division, the Blue Jays find themselves looking up at both the Orioles and the Rays. Adding Oswalt to basically replace the #5 starter would cost the team a hefty amount compared to the current payroll, but this might be the year to ride Brett Lawrie, Kelly Johnson, Yunel Escobar, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and J.P. Arencibia all the way to the playoffs.
- Red Sox – The Sox have not made the playoffs since 2009, and they haven’t tasted any playoff success since 2008. If Oswalt can provide a steadying influence in Boston, he might be worth the gamble. After all, the Red Sox have nothing to lose, since they currently dwell in the AL East’s basement.
- Reds – The Reds sit at 23-19 which puts them 2 games above their projected Pythagorean record. The team’s lack of quality starting pitching has been masked by late game comebacks, but likely regression could end that trend at any time. It’s not that I don’t have faith in their offense, but not many teams can keep it rolling when the bullpen has almost as many wins (10) as the starting rotation (13).
Of course, nobody knows exactly what Oswalt will do, but based on all considerations, the 5 listed above seem the “best” destinations, even if they do not seem the likeliest at first inspection.