Do the Cardinals Have Room for Another Wizard???


Yesterday rumors hit the web, news outlets, and the blogosphere that the St. Louis Cardinals were minutes away from signing noted Cardinal killer Roy Oswalt. Rumors have been circulating for months that Oswalt was interested in becoming a St. Louis Cardinal. GM John Mozeliak has repeatedly denied speculation that he was pursuing Oswalt. He continues to do so.

Mozeliak’s denial is not surprising due to the current pitching staff situation. With the four and five spots currently held by Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook (who each enjoy no trade clauses and have no desire to go anywhere) where does Oswalt fit? I will fully disclose that I would like to see this become reality. I initially had concerns about a deal such as this once Dave Duncan stepped down as pitching coach. I now think this could be a great fit if Oswalt returns to any semblance of his former glory. Oswalt is a three-time All-Star, who carries a career 153-93 record and 3.21 ERA. At the very least he bolsters the bullpen. Whether he assumes one of those roles or he establishes himself as a quality starter and relegates Lohse or Westbrook to the pen this is a win-win situation.

Realistically a move such as this rumored signing strengthens a bullpen in a substantial way. I would like to think that Oswalt has at least a couple of more years left in the tank. I had assumed before Dunc’s departure that Oswalt would become his latest reclamation project. I think a move such as this has some inherent risks as well. One could be positive for the financial bottom line. If the Cards do sign Oswalt it may persuade Lohse or Westbrook to wave their no trade clause and allow us to move one or both of them to fill any pressing needs that arise during Spring Training. One other risk is this could create a tense situation for a new pitching coach and new manager.

According to reports the Cardinals have offered 5 million dollars, well below what I would think market value would be. The Texas Rangers have offered an incentive laden contract that is worth more. Oswalt has expressed an interest to stay in the National League, which could leave potential suitors, the Rangers and Red Sox off his list. I believe this realization is what is what ignited the recent fire about his imminent signing with the Redbirds. If the club can sign him without jeopardizing anything an year or two year contract I think it would be silly not to sign him.

If we take a quick view of last years performance of Oswalt, Lohse, and Westbrook there is not a large amount of difference between them, but in a pressure game I would be more inclined to send Oswalt to the mound over the other two options. Oswalt went 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA and 95 K’s. Lohse was 14-8 with a 3.39 ERA and 111 K’s. Westbrook was 12-9 with a 4.66 ERS and 109 K’s. All of these guys are serviceable as compliments to Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Jaime Garcia. If Oswalt can overcome the back injuries that have plagued him and earns a spot in the rotation it may be the most solid 1-4 that the Cardinals have had in some time, if ever. All of this is assuming that Oswalt returns to form (or what passes as form for a 34 year old pitcher). Oswalt is a competitor and we have seen players supposedly past their prime have a career revival inside Busch Stadium. Why couldn’t he?

This move would provide security and flexibility for Mozeliak and the organization moving forward this year and have a much further reaching impact. It would give the Birds at least nine potential starters at the big league level. Joining Carp, Waino, Garcia, Oswalt, Lohse / Westbrook you can add Kyle McClellan and Marc Rzepczynski (who is penciled in to be a starter some day) and Shelby Miller waiting in the wings. This would allow Mo to replace an injured Raphael Furcal if necessary or upgrade at second base without substantially handicapping the club’s chances of competing now or in the future. Once again I am impressed with Mozeliak if he can pull this off.

While doing some research for this post I noticed on that Oswalt’s nickname is “The Wizard of Os”. It makes you wonder if he’s not destined to join the Cards due to our history with our very own Wizard of Oz. The amount of work that has been done by the club to offset the loss of our greatest offensive production has been quietly impressive. While Beltran was a welcomed addition there hasn’t been a major splash made. Mo and the organization have quietly pieced together a team that is by all accounts favored to win the division (even by Walt Jocketty) and have a chance to compete for the World Series Championship. Oswalt could become an integral piece of the puzzle. I look forward to seeing exactly how this shakes out in the upcoming weeks. I believe we can make room for another Wizard especially if he can generate 14-16 wins. I think Roy will look pretty good with the Birds on the Bat across his chest.

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