Could Roy Oswalt Solve Tigers' Closer Worries If Bruce Rondon Falls Flat?

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2013

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 30: Roy Oswalt # 44 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on July 30, 2012 at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)
Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

Much has been made this spring—and all offseason, really—about the ninth-inning situation in Detroit following the departure of incumbent closer Jose Valverde in free agency. 

After faltering down the stretch, Valverde eventually lost his job, and no one was surprised when the Tigers opted not to re-sign him this offseason.

The team then passed on signing Rafael Soriano or anyone else on the free-agent market, opting instead to fill the void in-house.

Flame-throwing prospect Bruce Rondon was the front-runner to land the job, as he posted a 1.53 ERA and 29 saves with an 11.2 K/9 mark over three minor league levels last season.

However, he struggled early on this spring, and while he's pitching better of late, the team may still be leery of turning over closer duties to someone who has yet to make his major league debut and has been far from lights out this spring.

The team has other options, as Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel and Phil Coke are all solid late-inning arms who could succeed in the role.

However, there may be another option worth considering in the form of 35-year-old All-Star Roy Oswalt.

The veteran right-hander intends to pitch in 2013 and has been working out at home in Mississippi, waiting for the right offer to come along from a contender.

However, the most interesting development may be his willingness to pitch in relief (h/t MLB Trade Rumors). Last season, he signed with the Rangers after the season began but was not as open to the idea of pitching out of the bullpen.

He wound up in the bullpen anyway after going 3-5 with a 6.36 ERA over nine starts, and he pitched noticeably better in relief.

It was a small sample size, as he threw just 12.1 innings over eight appearances in relief, but Oswalt had a 3.65 ERA, 0.892 WHIP and 20 strikeouts.

His fastball isn't what it used to be, as it averaged just 91.5 miles per hour, but he has become less reliant on the fastball late in his career, throwing it just 57.8 percent of the time last season (h/t FanGraphs).

In place of the fastball, he has thrown far more changeups, and that was statistically his best pitch last season, as it was the only one without a negative pitch value.

So what does all of that mean? Well, to me it means that Oswalt has made some necessary adjustments as his skill set has declined, and while he may not have overpowering stuff anymore, he does bring a savvy veteran approach.

It cost the Rangers $5 million to sign him last season, and after his poor performance, he'll likely be cheaper this time around. If he can be had for $2 million to $3 million, it may be a chance worth taking for a Tigers team with title hopes.