Should the Phillies Bring Oswalt Back?
Over the weekend, the Yankees made big news, bringing in right-hander pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal worth between $10-11 million. The 37-year-old Kuroda has very quietly posted a quality 3.45 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over four seasons stateside, averaging 6.7 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9.
Still on the free-agent market is Phillies right-hander Roy Oswalt, who according to reports is now looking in the $8 million range. Oswalt, who dealt with back issues in 2011 would be a nice gamble on an $8 million deal, not a large investment for a guy who posted a respectable 3.69 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 23 starts last season.
Rumors over the weekend suggested that Oswalt could be a be a legitimate fall-back option for the Texas Rangers should they miss out on Yu Darvish. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, there are people in the Phillies organization that would "love" to see Oswalt re-sign with the team.
A recent report from FOXSports.com stated that Boston has "maintained active dialogue" with Oswalt's agent. But the Red Sox are trying to avoid a major luxury tax hit and don't have much room in the budget for 2012 so the Red Sox don't appear to be an option right now for Oswalt who could also end up in St. Louis.
The real question is should the Phillies even think about bringing Oswalt back?
The answer is simple, yes.
For one, the Phillies need to look at the Washington Nationals as a viable contender if in fact they can lure Oswalt to Washington as Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reported back on December 7th. While there isn't much noise coming out of Washington on that rumor, the Nats did just ink lefty pitcher Gio Gonzalez to a five-year extension is worth $42 million. The 26-year-old left-hander posted a 3.12 ERA in 32 starts last season for the A's, striking out 197 batters in 202 innings of work.
If the Nationals can add Oswalt to a staff that already includes Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg who is returning from Tommy John surgery the top three of the Nats staff could prove to be very formidable. Oswalt could be just the veteran presence that is needed in Washington.
Some might ask, where would Oswalt fit in the Phillies rotation and it's an interesting question.
The top three are set, with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. However, it's the next two spots that seem to be set already, but there isn't much depth. Yes, the club brought back Kyle Kendrick and just signed Joel Piñeiro but neither can hold a candle to the resume to Oswalt.
A rotation with Oswalt in and Blanton out is no question a better option with Vance Worley almost sure to start the season in the starting five. But what if Worley isn't ready and takes a step back. Remember J.A. Happ? Sure you do.
He was the hot pitching prospect, nobody wanted to trade to get Oswalt in the first place. After going 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA, Phillies fans didn't want to deal Happ to get Oswalt fearing they were giving up on a young pitching prospect. 11 wins and 19 losses later, combined with a ERA of 5.35 in 2011 and 44 starts over the past two season, people don't even remember who J.A. Happ is.
Am I worried that Vance Worley might turn into J.A. Happ, not really, but it's not out of the question. A look at their rookie season numbers and they are very similar. Worley was 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA IN 21 starts. Worley sported a 1.230 WHIP while Happ had a 1.235 pretty close.
For $8 million, the Phillies almost can't afford not to have Oswalt back.
What if Worley was a one-year wonder, keep in mind he is a career 25-23 in four minor league seasons, with a 3.80 ERA. What if Blanton gets hurt again, better yet, what if the offense needs a face-lift at the trade deadline, maybe its Worley that might have to be the casualty this time considering the farm system that is pretty empty - Worley might be one of the only trade chips they have.
Having Oswalt around sure makes it easier to deal and keeps him from facing you - remember the Phillies offense isn't the most consistent in the National League. Wouldn't it be terrible to see Oswalt facing you in Washington, Florida or some other NL city, when for $8 million he could be helping you win another NL East crown.