The Rangers are scheduled to meet with free agent right-hander Roy Oswalt and his representatives today. We'll see what, if anything, comes of it, but the Rangers are in a good spot here. They don't have to do anything. If Oswalt really wants to play in Texas and the deal is too good to pass up, the Rangers think about it. If not, they can head to spring training with the group they've got.
But let's speculate for a moment. Say the Rangers do sign the 34-year-old Oswalt. Reports say he wants to start, meaning someone will either have to be traded or moved to the bullpen. It seems logical to think that's Matt Harrison, who certainly helped his overall value with a solid 2011 season. Why Harrison? Well, after Derek Holland's World Series Game 4 start and his second half, the 25-year-old's spot seems secure. Colby Lewis is the veteran of the staff and the club is committed to giving Neftali Feliz a shot at the rotation. Factor in Yu Darvish and Alexi Ogando is the leading candidate to move to the bullpen for him. Adding another starter makes Harrison the likely odd-man out.
So maybe the question is this: Do you want Matt Harrison or Roy Oswalt in the rotation?
Let's start with Harrison. He's 26 years old (and now a father, congrats Matt), a left-hander and coming off his career-best season. Harrison spent the entire 2011 season in the rotation, the first time he's done that in his career despite starting the 2009 and 2010 seasons in the rotation as well. He pitched 185 2/3 innings and was 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA. He had 126 strikeouts and 57 walks and opponents hit .257 against him.
Harrison, acquired in the Mark Teixeira trade on July 31, 2007, showed an ability to bounce back from a rough inning or outing, something he wasn't able to do with consistency earlier in his career. And Harrison, who has dealt with injuries the past few seasons, stayed healthy for the most part in 2011. He did have a blister on his left index finger that forced him to miss a start, but he played through a kidney stone and even taking a line drive off his left triceps.
The season gave Harrison some confidence and he's focused on improving even more in 2012 (he talked about that on Saturday in Frisco).
Oswalt is available this late in the free agent process because he's coming off lower-back issues in 2011. Oswalt was 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA in 139 innings (23 starts) with the Philadelphia Phillies last season and did not have his option picked up. He was dealt to the Phillies at the trade deadline in 2010 and was 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA the rest of that season (12 starts).
He has a track record of success as the ace of the Astros' staff, winning 20 games in 2004 and 2005 and sporting a career 3.21 ERA with Houston. He's also pitched in 13 postseason games (11 starts) and is 5-2 with a 3.73 ERA in 72 1/3 innings. He made one start against the Cardinals in the NLDS in 2011 and gave up five runs on six hits in six innings in a Game 4 loss. The Phillies lost the series in five games.
Oswalt, according to reports, wants to play for either St. Louis or Texas, so the Rangers will listen to what he has to say and figure out if it's a direction they'd like to go.
So it's your turn. Would you rather have Matt Harrison or Roy Oswalt? Why or why not?