Roy Oswalt: Mercenary
Over the entire offseason, Royals fans have been clamoring for Dayton Moore to sign a top-tier starting pitcher, and rightfully so. After all, Kansas City really only got one great season out of Zack Greinke. Other than that, our list of “ace” pitchers includes the likes of Luke Hochevar, Gil Meche, Scott Elarton, Runelvys Hernandez, Jeff Suppan, etc.; a list that just about every other team could top.
And with starting pitchers like Mark Buehrle, C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson, and Roy Oswalt available this past offseason, one would have figured that the Royals would try to make a push for at least one of them.
The cold(ish) days of December came and went, and with them went Mark Buehrle (Marlins 4yr/$58mil) and C.J. Wilson (Angels 5yr/$77mil). Thus, the Royals’ targets for a potential number one starter dwindled to Jackson vs. Oswalt.
Royals nation was basically begging for Dayton to sign Edwin Jackson, but he eventually inked a 1yr/$12mil. deal with the Nationals, and all eyes turned to Roy Oswalt.
Now, before we move on to Oswalt, let’s look at the deal E-Jax got from the Nationals. The 28-year old entered the offseason as one of the top FA pitchers, yet nobody wanted to meet his price tag, including KC. He even turned down a multi-year offer from Pittsburgh to sign a one-year deal with the Nats. So clearly, Jackson’s goal in 2012 is to turn in another solid season in hopes he can land a mulit-year contract elsewhere with a contract north of $50 mil. If the Royals management really thought E-Jax was worth it, they could have shelled out Gil Meche-type money (5yr/$55mil) to get him.
Back to Roy.
Oswalt has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball over the last decade, compiling a 159-93 record (.631 W-L%), a 3.21 career ERA, a 3.52 K/BB ratio, an average of 220 innings pitched and 33 starts per season, and a season WAR average of 4.2. But 2011 was a little different for him.
He left the Phillies in late April to tend to family matters in Mississippi and returned in mid May. He was then placed on the DL in June due to lingering back issues. He was able to come back from the DL in early August and remained fairly effective throughout the rest of the season.
Given Oswalt’s size (6’0″, 190), age (34), his quick pace on the mound, and the fact that he averages 200+ innings per year, a back injury, even though he has no real injury history at all, could be more serious than it seems. And that’s exactly why nobody has taken a flyer on him this offseason.
There have also been questions of Oswalt’s motivation. Some feel that he’s going to be in the same boat as Roger Clemens: a “Pitcher for Hire”. Clemens’ case was notable for the fact that he would only be at the ballpark on the days that his name was on the lineup card. Oh yeah and that he was raking in $1 million+ per start.
And today came the news that Oswalt will most likely wait until mid-season to sign with which ever team he deems worthy of his services. Very Clemens-esque.
I may be in the minority of Royals fans here, but I’m great with the fact that the Royals didn’t sign either one of Jackson or Oswalt. Their one-year deals wouldn’t have necessarily blocked any of our young pitching prospects. But with a young team in the process of learning how to play together and win together, would you really want to bring in a veteran on an expensive one-year deal who could possibly mess with that chemistry?
2013′s free agent class seems to be much, much better than this past offseason’s, with names like Matt Cain, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Francisco Liriano, Shaun Marcum, Anibal Sanchez, and possibly James Shields and Ervin Santana(expensive Team Options). So wouldn’t you rather have the extra $10 million or so it would have taken to sign Oswalt to potentially spend on one of these guys?