Roy Oswalt was once one of the most reliable top-of-the-rotation starting pitchers in the National League.
But back issues took a toll on the right-hander last season in Philadelphia and the Phillies elected not to bring him back this spring.
When the Texas Rangers signed the 34-year-old to a minor league deal deal Wednesday, they added a proven veteran to a banged up rotation. With Oswalt, they could have a solid arm at the back of their rotation — or they could get a few months of the old Roy Oswalt who seemed to be in the NL Cy Young conversation nearly every season.
The deal is worth $4 million for this season if Oswalt joins the Rangers by July 1. He is expected to make the first of several starts at Triple-A Round Rock on Saturday.
With Neftali Feliz on the shelf with inflammation in his pitching elbow and Japanese heralded import Yu Darvish dealing with tightness in his back, the Rangers could use added depth. And while their 5 1/2 game edge in the American League West is tied for the largest for any division leader, the Los Angeles Angels have won eight straight and are closing the gap.
Texas already has the American League’s best pitching staff, but can Oswalt make it even better?
“He’s motivated. He’s a prideful guy, he’s in very good shape,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “I think he’s got something to prove, but I think the bigger thing is he wants to win.”
Here’s a look at the numbers for the Rangers’ current rotation:
Colby Lewis - 10 starts, 4-3, 6 quality starts, 3.58 ERA, 1.16 WHIP
Derek Holland - 10 starts, 4-3, 6 QS, 4.05 ERA, 1.17 WHIP
Yu Darvish - 10 starts, 7-2, 5 QS, 3.25 ERA, 1.46 WHIP
Matt Harrison - 10 starts, 6-3, 6 QS, 4.41 ERA, 1.37 WHIP
Scott Feldman - 3 starts, 0-2, 0 QS, 4.66 ERA, 1.40 WHIP
Here’s Oswalt’s line from his injury-shortened 2011:
Roy Oswalt - 23 starts, 9-10, 14 QS, 3.69 ERA, 1.34 WHIP
Right now, Texas leads the AL in ERA (3.32) and is tied for first in batting average against (.232). But Feldman has yet to make it beyond the fifth inning since replacing Feliz in the rotation, and when Oswalt gets up to speed, he’d likely take over.
Oswalt has never pitched for an American League team, and the adjustment to an extra non-pitcher bat in the lineup could take some getting used to. But assuming his body can hold up, Oswalt’s value as the team’s fifth starter would reach well beyond his win-loss record. As ESPN Dallas reporter Jean-Jacques Taylor writes, adding Oswalt would allow the Rangers to ease Feliz back into the middle-relief role where he shined in his first three seasons, further fortifying an already dominant bullpen.
And as long as Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and company keep mashing, an Oswalt ERA in the high 3s or low to mid 4s should still give the Rangers a chance to win most nights.
At the very least, signing Oswalt prevents him from rejoining the Phillies or another potential playoff contender down the line.
How do you rate this move for the two-time defending AL champs?