Roy Oswalt will have his say in baseball's pennant race soon.
The free-agent starter is being pursued most vigilantly by the Cardinals, Red Sox, Rangers, Orioles, and his former team, the Phillies, according to reports. While the fortunes of these clubs would be affected by his addition to varying degrees, the fact remains that he is a sought after commodity who will play a role down the stretch for a contender.
While GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has downplayed his team's need—and subsequently, their interest—the fact remains that starting pitching depth could develop into an issue in Philadelphia. When a 3-time All-Star says he is interested, it's tough not to consider.
With Vance Worley sidelined, Kyle Kendrick has stepped in as a spot starter for the second time this season. While a complete game shutout on Saturday may have quelled concerns about his ability to start in a pinch, he is still Kyle Kendrick.
And if another starter were to go down, who's next in line?
Amaro doesn't even know.
It might be Tyler Cloyd, but he's made only six starts above Double-A. Dave Bush and Scott Elarton are both pitching well in Lehigh Valley, but between the two, they've made only three Major League starts since 2010.
Needless to say, the in-house options are inferior to the addition of the 2005 World Series MVP.
But if it's depth were talking about, what would they do with the starters when everyone's healthy? A six-man rotation doesn't make sense when you have the power and durability at the front of the rotation that Philadelphia does.
With Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Vance Worley, and Roy Oswalt as the starting five, Joe Blanton would become expendable, as he has seemingly been for three seasons. He could become the long man in the bullpen—bumping Kendrick to Lehigh Valley, perhaps—or he could become trade bait.
Blanton has pitched well enough this season to regain some of the value he lost through the injury-plagued 2011 campaign. Teams like Boston and Baltimore could absolutely have interest in the former first round pick—he could even be the piece that brings in Kevin Youkilis.
Besides adding depth to the starting pitching, and perhaps other areas if Blanton ceases to have a use on the club, Oswalt is also a proven down-the-stretch performer. His presence on the team will do nothing but help the team's playoff chances.
You don't have to think too far to remember the impact Oswalt had the last time the Phillies acquired him mid-season (he went 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 12 starts after the 2010 trading deadline, in case you forgot).
The owner of 159 wins and a 3.21 ERA, The Wizard of Os saves his best baseball for the playoff race. From August to October, he is 68-20 with a 2.72 ERA. Finding guys with late-season numbers that good are really hard to find.
All of this is why Amaro's comments perplex me. When you're courting a top-flight free agent—like Oswalt—what possible good could downplaying your interest have?
His asking price isn't going to go down because he is questioning his own value. Boston, Baltimore, Texas, and St. Louis won't stop driving up the number. In the end, while opening up the checkbook won't necessarily secure the vet, you're still going to have to pay him.
If healthy, Oswalt has the chance to be a big factor in deciding the way the standings look after 162 games. If the Phils can find the cash in their bankroll, it could go a long way towards getting them back to where they want to be.
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