When word got out that Roy Oswalt was now looking for a one-year contract with hopes of rebuilding his value, I wonder if St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak ran to the phone? As of now the Cardinals are not reported to be among the suitors. I think Mozeliak should make the call. There are some players who are worth the risk and Oswalt is one of them. Even when he is not at his best, he is as at least as good as Kyle Lohse and definitely better than Jake Westbrook on their best days. If the fear is that he may only have 20 starts in him, I would take those 20 starts in a heartbeat.
Of course, a balky back is nothing to sneeze about for a pitcher. It can throw off the mechanics and cause harm elsewhere. Oswalt would have to submit to a fully comprehensive physical before a signing became official. Getting involved in the discussions and offering a contract on the conditions of a physical, doesn’t mean they have to sign him if the medical staff is leery of his condition.
Oswalt had been very durable up until last season. From 2004 through 2010 he threw at least 200 innings each season, except in 2008 when he tossed 181 1/3 frames. Last season in 23 starts (24 games) he compiled a 9-10 record with a 3.69 ERA (3.96 xFIP). These are not terrible numbers considering he played hurt a majority of the time.
There are a couple reasons why the Cardinals should look into this further. One, there is never enough pitching depth in the rotation. Having a sixth guy is not a hindrance it is a luxury. A luxury the Cardinals can afford. This is especially true when your ace is coming off surgery the previous season. Anyone who thinks that Adam Wainwright, who missed all of the 2011 season after having Tommy John surgery in February, is going to look exactly as he did in 2010 is not living in reality. While Kyle Lohse had a very good season and Westbrook pitched as well as any fifth starter in the league, would adding Oswalt hurt? Westbrook, could be pushed to the bullpen to provide long relief and spot starts if any of the other five starters were injured or if Wainwright isn’t quite ready in April.
The money that was saved with Albert Pujols heading to the Los Angeles Angels, can be split between Oswalt and Carlos Beltran or whoever the Cards sign to fill the outfield role they perceive to be a necessity. The Cardinals certainly run the risk of signing a pitcher who has had back issues for a couple years now. Last season, Oswalt was shut down at various times because of the pain he used to be able to deal with. If the Cardinals get into the mix here, the offers for Oswalt will probably be in the neighborhood of $10 million per year with performance incentives built in to make up for the injury risk involved in signing him. His 2.5 WAR in a “down” 2011 season would more than pay for that type of contract.
The upside for such a one-year deal with Oswalt should be very appealing. The fact that it is only one season is a plus in and of itself. Maybe Oswalt becomes more attractive if Beltran signs elsewhere thus eliminating the worry of two injury risk signings. Let’s see if Mozeliak picks up the phone. Oswalt would have to listen to an offer from the defending World Champions, wouldn’t he?