We continue our look at possible free-agent and trade options for the Rangers as we inch closer to the Winter Meetings in Dallas next week.
Today's free agent: Roy Oswalt
The 34-year-old from Mississippi was the No. 4 starter in the Phillies' impressive rotation. But back trouble limited him to 139 innings in 2011. He had a 3.69 ERA (in 23 starts) and a 9-10 record to go along with 93 strikeouts and 33 walks.
Oswalt threw 211 2/3 innings for the Astros and Phillies and won 13 games with a 2.76 ERA in 2010. In the 2010 postseason, Oswalt had a 1.84 ERA in the NLCS and started Games 2 and 6 and got the final two outs of Game 4. Philadelphia lost the NLCS to eventual World Champion San Francisco.
Oswalt has won 20 games twice (2004 and 2005) and won 17 or more four times total in his 11 full seasons. He's a three-time All-Star and was the MVP of the NLCS in 2005 with Houston, going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in 14 innings. He's pitched in 13 postseason games (11 starts) and is 5-2 with a 3.73 ERA in 72 1/3 innings.
But the injury last year caused the Phillies to decline his option, paying him a $2 million buyout instead of paying him $16 million for 2012. The next team that signs him does so with some risk involved because of the injury. Texas has a history of trying its luck with guys coming off injuries. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. They paid Brandon Webb $3 million in 2010 and he never pitched at the major league level. But I'll argue that you have to take some of those chances, especially on players with a proven track record.
Does that mean Oswalt makes sense? I don't know. How serious are his back problems? In the past, the Rangers prefer to deal with one-year contracts on players with injury issues. Maybe there's a way to structure things where if Oswalt pitches a certain number of innings, he can vest another year as part of the deal. Oswalt's agent is Bob Garber, who also represents C.J. Wilson, so there is an open line of communication between the club and Garber already.
This is when front offices around the league get tested. How many years is smart for a pitcher coming off injury? Is Oswalt worth the gamble? We'll see.
But the Rangers will check into anything and everything to make the club better. If they feel like Oswalt can stay healthy and there's good value there, don't be surprised if they show interest. But if the price is too high or the medical reports not favorable enough, they'll look elsewhere.