Rangers Sign Roy Oswalt

According to multiple sources, the Texas Rangers have signed Roy Oswalt to a one year contract worth between $5 million and $6 million, with incentives, but pro-rated according to how much time the player spends on the Major League roster.

I understand why the Rangers made this move to acquire a starting pitcher, but I don’t quite think it makes a whole lot of sense. And while I’m weary of criticizing the Texas front office given their track record of brilliance, I think the team would’ve been better off without Oswalt.

And that’s an opinion that takes into account the following (bullet) pointed truths about Roy Oswalt:

  • Roy Oswalt is a good pitcher.
  • Roy Oswalt isn’t as good as he once was.
  • Roy Oswalt has taken his sweet time deciding for which team he’ll play.
  • A healthier Roy Oswalt is a better Roy Oswalt.

And all these truths are far less important than this truth, from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram:

As long as free agent Roy Oswalt remains unsigned and set-up man Alexi Ogando remains in the Texas Rangers’ bullpen, Scott Feldman will continue to fill the rotation spot created by an elbow injury to right-hander Neftali Feliz.

And, we can even go further and bring up the following about Oswalt:

  • His fastball’s velocity was up after he came back from the Disabled List in August of last year;
  • There’s some indication that he effectively changed his approach to counter balance that loss of velocity, anyway;
  • Not having to pitch through the rigors of an entire season only stands to benefit the 34-year -old;
  • He is quite likely the best starting pitcher freely available; and
  • Pending the results of tests on Jered Weaver’s lower back, the Rangers’ main rivals may become suddenly interested in bolstering their rotation.

However, the only thing that truly matters is that Oswalt is a better pitcher than Feldman, and when the opportunity arises for a playoff bound team to improve, especially when that improvement doesn’t cost anything more than money, it’s best taken, not passed over.

Right?

If we consider 86 wins to be the likely number it takes to gain entry into the Wild Card playoff game, we can look at the Rangers current record and see that they could go 55-78 for the rest of the season, and still have a decent shot at postseason baseball. Even without Neftali Feliz, Texas should make the playoffs easily.

Therefore, signing Oswalt isn’t really about ensuring a playoff spot that likely already belongs to them, or even filling in for an injured Feliz, it’s about shoring up a playoff roster. But as good as you might expect Oswalt to be, is he actually going to get a playoff start ahead of a healthy Neftali Feliz, Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland? He’s likely a bit better than Colby Lewis, but good enough to warrant sending a starter that has been in the team’s rotation since 2010 to the bullpen?

Does Roy Oswalt even have a place in the Rangers rotation?

Too much depth is never a bad thing, and while it’s true that a pitcher like Darvish has never endured an entire MLB season as a starting pitcher, the team already has the aforementioned Feldman and Alexi Ogando available for service if the need arises this coming post season. While it’s very likely that a rested and healthy Oswalt is a better option than those two, I don’t imagine the insurance being worth the premium in this case.

This is especially true when we consider that the Rangers are already over their budget in terms of payroll.

And then we consider what happens to the team this off season, when Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli, as well as bullpen stalwart Mike Adams are all eligible for free agency. Unnecessarily committing money, even as relatively little as $5 million or $6 million to Oswalt when it could be better used ahead of next year, doesn’t seem to me to be the most fiscally responsible of actions.

Perhaps, in thinking of next year, the team would be better served by waiting until a Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke become available on the trade market, and work toward signing a more significant improvement over their current rotation to a longer term contract.

That may just be wishful thinking, but even without such a deal, I don’t see how Oswalt offers enough of an improvement over what the team currently has, and I think I’m being rather generous in my consideration of what Oswalt can offer.

However, what it boils down to is that while Oswalt would make the team better than in it is right now, what really matters to the Rangers at this point in the season given their phenomenal start is that a prospective transaction makes the team better in October. In that sense, Oswalt is little more than insurance. He’s expensive insurance for something that the team already has pre-existing coverage.