Earlier today, Roy Oswalt’s agent, Bob Garber, let it be known to several different media outlets that his client would be making a “big announcement.” After months of rumours, innuendo and speculation as to where Oswalt would be playing this coming season, it was widely expected that today’s “big announcement” would inform baseball fans of what team the right handed pitcher had settled on.
Oswalt, 34, has told teams that he plans to keep throwing, stay ready and would be willing to return during the season if nothing materializes before then. That approach would mirror what Clemens did in 2006 and 2007, when he returned in June to pitch for the Houston Astros and then the New York Yankees.
The unexpected move is probably a clever one for Oswalt.
Interested teams, like the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers, seemed reluctant to offer the type of dollar figure for which Oswalt was looking. This disparity was likely caused by two factors: 1) Oswalt’s persistent back problems from last year; and 2) the respective teams being content with the starting rotations that they already had in place.
Between 2004 and 2009, Oswalt made only two trips to the 15 day Disabled List. He equaled that total last season, missing 63 days due lower back strain and a cartilage injury. Taking some additional time off to recover from last season’s woes mitigates the risk that teams would take in signing a player who would certainly benefit from not having to go through the rigours of an entire season of Major League Baseball.
In addition, there’s little doubt in my mind that the contentment which many teams might feel for their starting rotations in February will fade by June into despair and paranoia, as injuries and failed expectations begin to take their toll. A competitive team would theoretically pay a pretty penny to add a starting pitcher of Oswalt’s quality without being forced into giving up a prospect or a player already on its Major League roster.
As Drew Fairservice showed us back in January, Oswalt hasn’t allowed a declining velocity on his fastball stop him from using it to get batters out. His change in approach combined with rest on the DL, allowed him to finish last season with an improved four seamer that collected whiffs at the same rate as vintage Oswalt.
With more rest and less demand on his fragile back, Oswalt will most likely prove to be a very good option at the season’s mid point. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he lands a contract in June for a similar amount of dollars to what he was being offered in February.