Roy Oswalt: Why Someone Needs to Take a Chance on Free-Agent Pitcher
Conspicuously available as all pitchers and catchers reported this week was former Astro/Phillie Roy Oswalt. While Oswalt certainly garnered some interest from at least a few teams, his status still remains "FA."
For the life of me, I can't figure out why a team with a younger pitching staff wouldn't want Ol' Roy in its locker room. Roy still knows how to pitch for sure, and his veteran presence could be invaluable to any young ace, still learning how to pitch. At age 34 (35 in late August), Roy is several years removed from elite, but he certainly has a good bit of life left in that arm.
What has teams concerned about the Mississippi right hander are the miles on said arm and the recurring issues with his back. Over an impressive 11 seasons, Oswalt has an average of 220 IP but more than a few missed starts with a barking back.
Last year with the Phils, Oswalt struggled with the same back injury and was limited to only 139 innings. Oswalt has dealt with the back issues by opting for cortisone shots instead of surgery for a couple of bulging disks. He came off the DL at the end of last year and was inconsistent at best, but for the most part he stayed healthy through August and September.
So what's the risk with Oswalt? A one-year deal and a contract with incentives is a small price to pay for a team like the Washington Nationals and their young arms. Oswalt could be a fantastic mentor for Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann, while providing a heck of a fourth or fifth option in the starting rotation.
Texas, Tampa and Arizona also have younger but loaded pitching staffs, and would provide nice, warm weather options for Roy, who probably wouldn't mind being closer to home later in his career. He's not going to mow down hitters like he has in the past, but 150 quality innings and a solid veteran presence in the locker room is money well-spent.
Oswalt recently stated that he would be willing to come back halfway through the season. With a well rested back (and arm), Oswalt is an intriguing option for a needy contender looking for the Clemens-esque mercenary arm. His stuff now far from electric, Oswalt knows he's not the star anymore. While I'm sure he would love the chance to get a ring, playing half a season for a contender, the up-and-coming pitching staffs are missing out on his experience for sure.
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