There's been a running joke this season that involves Roy Oswalt being comfortable sitting on his tractor at home in Weir, Mississippi, laughing at a handful of teams who think they can buy him away from happiness, but that's not true.
Anyone that truly knows Oswalt, who has listened to him talk and watched him compete, knows firsthand that he won't be happy on that tractor until there is a giant World Series ring on his finger to catch that Mississippi sunshine.
For that reason alone, it certainly wasn't surprising to see Oswalt's agent, Bob Garber, reiterate his client's intention to pitch in 2012—but on his terms. Oswalt, an 11-year MLB veteran, has often been painted as the type of man who wouldn't mind spending more time at home with his family, but the sheer competitor that resides within just won't let that happen.
"After much thought and careful consideration, Roy [Oswalt] has decided to continue to evaluate his options. He is in great health and will continue to stay in shape, while throwing regularly off the mound. Roy has every intention of pitching for a contending club at some point this season," said Garber in a statement, passed along by FoxSports.com.
That simple statement has the baseball world jumping to conclusions. Will Oswalt follow a plan established by Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez in the past, jumping on to a club's roster around midseason to help push for a World Series title?
Both St. Louis and Texas are just a hop, skip and a jump away from Oswalt's home in Weir, Mississippi, and in Philadelphia, Oswalt knows the roster and what it's capable of. All three are very capable contenders for a World Series in 2012.
So why haven't any of them landed Oswalt yet? Well, money is an issue, but the bigger issue remains the fact that none of those three teams are in terrible need of a starting pitcher.
The Cardinals are set with Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter at the top of their rotation and plenty of depth. The Rangers have even more depth, and they spent more than $100 million this winter in pursuit of Japanese phenom Yu Darvish. The Phillies have three aces, a Rookie of the Year finalist from 2011 and a Joe Blanton.
Of those three teams, all have very capable starting rotations from the first slot to the fifth. By waiting until midseason, Oswalt hopes to land with one of these clubs in pursuit of a World Series after an injury, but will that be necessary?
The Cardinals have top prospect Shelby Miller waiting in the wings. The Rangers' rotation is arguably seven men deep. Even the Phillies have a number of veteran options in Kyle Kendrick, Dave Bush and Joel Pineiro, among others.
Will these teams have room for Oswalt, even in the event of an injury? Well, that's where the conspiracy theory kicks in.
Okay, so it's not so much of a conspiracy theory as a possible, behind-the-scenes explanation for what's going on. The Phillies are one of the few teams that have not closed the door on an Oswalt return. Cardinals' general manager John Mozeliak has publicly stated that Oswalt will "not be pitching for the Cardinals." (h/t: Joe Strauss)
Rangers' general manager Jon Daniels told reporters, including Evan Grant of MLB.com, that his club has no intention of signing Oswalt.
In fact, Phillies' general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has been the only member of that group to express interest in Oswalt, but continually expresses concern about the budget. That would lead one to believe that should the Phillies be able to free up some space under the luxury tax, they would be interested in bringing Oswalt back aboard.
Enter Joe Blanton.
The Phillies are not happy with the back end of their rotation, so much so that they were willing to take a shot on troubled New York Yankees' starter A.J. Burnett before they shipped him to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Phillies were interested in a three-team deal that would have sent Blanton to the Los Angeles Angels, Burnett to Philadelphia and Bobby Abreu to the Yankees.
It was never finished, and the logical explanation is that teams are wary of Blanton's health.
So the question remains: What happens if Blanton shows teams during the spring that improved conditioning and a healthy arm have him looking like a very capable, back-end-of-the-rotation starting pitcher?
Surely, at that point, plenty of teams would be willing to be pay half of Blanton's salary. Truth be told, having Blanton on your club for about $5 million is not a bad deal, but the Phillies are looking for upside. The Phillies' are looking for Oswalt.
So, if the conspiracy theorist in you is still following along, could the Phillies and Oswalt have some sort of gentleman's agreement in place? Will Oswalt stay on the market until the Phillies are able to find a taker for Blanton's salary?
After all, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com has spoken to a source that said Oswalt would be "very interested" in returning to Philadelphia.
So buckle your seat belts folks. The Roy Oswalt Roller Coaster is merely climbing a hill before it dives into a free fall once again. It certainly wouldn't be the first time that Amaro has taken the fans on a ride, and until Oswalt gets that big, shiny World Series ring, this thing is far from over.
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