Just because Prince Fielder has agreed to terms on his huge deal with the Detroit Tigers (nine years, $214 million, in case you've forgotten) doesn't mean the offseason is over. And even though the Rangers have signed Yu Darvish doesn't mean they're done either.
It was a year ago this week, by the way, that Texas traded for Mike Napoli. So late offseason moves can certainly pay dividends.
One name still out there is Roy Oswalt. Reports surfaced Wednesday, including this one from our buddy Gordon Edes at ESPNBoston.com, that Oswalt may want to pitch for either the Rangers or the St. Louis Cardinals.
The reason is location (he owns a farm in Missouri, according to FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal) and past relationships (he's dealt with Mike Maddux and Nolan Ryan and is comfortable with them) more than the fact that both teams played against each other in the 2011 World Series.
Edes reports that Boston remains interested in Oswalt but will also look at other options if Oswalt doesn't want to join the Sox.
Oswalt, 34, is still a free agent as the Hot Stove works its way toward spring training because of a balky back. Lower-back problems put him on the disabled list twice in 2011, limiting him to 139 innings (23 starts) with the Phillies. He was 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA and Philadelphia declined to pick up his $16 million option for the 2012 season, making him a free agent.
His track record is one of consistency, most of it with the Astros. He won 20 games in 2004 and 2005 and has a career 3.21 ERA. Oswalt was 6-12 with a 3.42 ERA in 2010 when he was dealt to the Phillies at the deadline. He then went out and was 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA for the Phillies to finish the season (12 starts). But last year, he had trouble staying healthy.
Why it might make sense: The Rangers' mantra has been that they can never have too much pitching depth. They've already got more starting pitchers than starting spots now, though, and must make a decision as to which starter goes to the bullpen if everyone stays healthy (that's probably Alexi Ogando). But it's a young staff and Oswalt would add a veteran presence to it and give the Rangers another key arm if he can stay healthy. With Neftali Feliz starting for the first time and Derek Holland and Matt Harrison out to show that 2011 was the start of more consistency, having another experienced arm in the rotation with Colby Lewis wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.
Also, if Oswalt really does want to pitch in Texas or St. Louis, that gives the Rangers leverage. They don't have to have Oswalt. They could sit back, wait and if Oswalt wants to pitch in Texas, maybe they can get a favorable deal and a contract structured on incentives.
Why it might not make sense: If Oswalt were to sign in Texas, yet another young pitcher would be forced to start the season out of the rotation. If Ogando is already the odd-man out with Lewis, Holland, Yu Darvish, Harrison and Feliz in the rotation, what happens if you throw Oswalt into that mix (with Scott Feldman waiting in the wings if needed)? I would think Harrison becomes the leading candidate to move into the bullpen. Does that make sense after Harrison was 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA? He stayed healthy and showed that he's taken an important step forward mentally, too. He didn't let bad innings or bad outings get to him and ended up making 30 starts and pitching 185 2/3 innings. When the club was trying to finish off the AL West in September, Harrison was 4-0 with a 2.64 ERA in 30 2/3 innings. He pitched well enough to see if it's the beginning of a run of consistency for him.
But this is also a Rangers team built to win now. And as we've seen in the past, injuries and other factors can contribute to an ever-changing rotation. Depth is never a bad thing and Oswalt has a much longer track record of success than Harrison (or nearly anyone on the club's staff, for that matter). I'm intrigued simply because I've seen too many springs where injuries pop up or someone isn't completely ready to go (and having another veteran around this staff can't hurt). And if the club signs him, maybe there's a market for one of the Rangers' starting pitchers even before spring arrives. But I'd also want some incentives in the deal to limit the guaranteed money because of his history of back problems. BTW, that opinion doesn't mean I don't believe in Harrison. I do and I think he'll show in 2012 that 2011 was no fluke. Texas has a good, young staff that's getting better, so I can see the Oswalt deal if it's accompanied by a trade or something else. But that's just me.
Is it worth taking a chance on Oswalt if the club gets a favorable deal because he's coming off a season where he dealt with back issues? Is he better than the alternatives already on the club? If so, who would you move to the bullpen in his place?