Best Part About the Rangers Inking Roy Oswalt? Low Expectations and a Big Upside.

Categories: Sports

oswalt.jpg
It's official: You will never see another photo of Roy Oswalt on Unfair Park.
Heading into Tuesday night's 10-3 ass-kicking by the Seattle Mariners, the Rangers and their fans had very little to complain about the 2012 season. Name an offensive stat -- batting average, runs scored, hits, home runs, total bases, on-base-plus-slugging percentage (my personal fave) -- and the Rangers were better than any other club in baseball.

Name a pitching stat -- team earned run average, batting average against, bullpen ERA, bullpen BAA -- and the Rangers were better than any other club in the American League.

Then, with an official announcement at 8:23 p.m., they got even better.

Just one day after ace Jered Weaver of the AL West rival Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim left the mound with a lower-back injury, Texas added veteran right-hander Roy Oswalt to a minor league contract, pending a much-anticipated physical. The Angels were among several clubs to reportedly make an offer to the game's most popular free agent.

The ex-Astros ace will be optioned to Triple-A Round Rock this weekend to get back into game shape after sitting out the first couple months of the season. Oswalt, who turns 35 in August, reportedly could earn approximately $4 million with another $1 million worth of incentives if he's pitching in the bigs before July 1.

After courting Oswalt since the trade deadline two years ago -- when Texas instead acquired Cliff Lee because of his smaller contract and status as a postseason ace -- the Rangers finally landed their man. And in doing so, three things became immediately apparent:

The Rangers front office doesn't view Scott Feldman as a viable starting pitcher. He'll join a long list of free agents at the end of the year that includes Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Colby Lewis, Mike Adams, Mark Lowe and Yorvit Torrealba. (Texas holds a $9.25 million club option for Feldman next year that is now certain to be bought out for $600,000.)

They're also not confident that Neftali Feliz can return from his sprained right elbow ligament in a couple months and be productive in the rotation. (If only they had kept him in the 'pen in the first place.)

And, most important, they're willing to do whatever it takes to get this team over the hump and win its first championship.

The move is hardly comparable to writing a check for $51.7 million to talk with Yu Darvish, but Oswalt brings a salty résumé with him to Texas. His career stats look pretty dang close to some guy named Roy Halladay, who incidentally just joined Weaver on the disabled list.

Halladay, 35: 192-97 record (.664) in 389 games, 3.25 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 6.9 K/9

Oswalt, 34: 159-93 (.631) in 339 games, 3.21 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 7.3 K/9

Obviously there's more to consider, such as Halladay's two Cy Youngs, perfect game and postseason no-hitter. But Oswalt's been effin' good for a long time. In fact, the only right-handed starter with more wins and a lower ERA and WHIP than Oswalt since 2001 is Halladay.

So, yeah, OK, he was really, really good at one point, but the question is: What the heck is he now?

It's not an easy one, though, since there's no real answer. We know Oswalt isn't the ace he was in the mid-2000s when he had back-to-back 20-win seasons. And we know Oswalt clearly isn't the pitcher he was when Texas targeted him in 2010, when he was spectacular in the second half following his trade to the Philadelphia Phillies, posting a 7-1 record, 1.74 ERA and 0.90 WHIP.

But no one really knows what Oswalt is at this point, especially considering he had two stints on the disabled list last year with a bulging disc in lower back. He also spent time on the DL in 2009 with degenerative disc disease in his lower back, along with missing time in 2008 because of, you guessed it, a herniated disc in his lower back. (On a somewhat related note, read Oswalt's story about touching a live sparkplug when you have time.)

Oswalt's history suggests he could establish himself as anything between a very solid No. 3 starter and the second coming of Brandon Webb. And the beauty in all this is that it's OK if he's Webb 2.0. Not preferable, but OK.

The Rangers needed Lee to pitch like an ace, and they needed Darvish to make a big splash immediately. But they don't need Oswalt to be anything, really. And that's the best part of this low-risk signing.

How many other teams could say that?

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14 comments
ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

Slammin sammy spitting game here boys. What a showing last night rangers

CrackerDaddy
CrackerDaddy

Glad to see Mr. Merten writing about baseball here.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Roy is only throwing 94, at best (after taking Geritol) ......be wary!  And look, the Sawx "be" over .500 again.  Just sayin.... watch out!  The Sox were done, then they picked up Posednick, Nava is a jewel, Middlebrooks is better than Mike Trout.....just sayin'.......I smell another Boston Championship.

cynical old bastard
cynical old bastard

Never heard the spark plug story before.  That's pretty funny and scary.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

Nice article, Sam, and glad to see you back; I hope there is much more to come. I wasn't a big fan of the trade because Oswalt's back issues and general age-based performance decline. But he is near term solution to the rotation, and you correctly point out the upside. Sadly I see little significant upside to Feldman, although he could be a worthy long reliever.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Joe Tone, you are off my shit list..for the moment.

Good to read ya Sam, Everyone should love this effing signing..it didn't cost any of our farm system (Just like Yu's signing) it only made the owners dig in their pockets a little further.  This is the year boys and girls, and the little Redshoe's continue to march in that direction.

Welcome to Texas Roy, and I hope you get a sweet ass piece of jewelry for your troubles.

Just Sayin
Just Sayin

The official announcement came at 8:23 but MLB and DMN had this at 3:30 pm yesterday.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Nice comments and story, about the only thing I feel like adding that hasn't been said is that Oswalt also provides a rather young pitching staff with an arm with credible experience and hopefully act as a mentor. Yes, Nolan is around and Greg Maddox has been around, but I'll go ahead and assume that being in the dugout/clubhouse with Roy every day will be a completely different type of relationship that Yu, Matt, and Dutch can all learn from.

Even if Oswalt is not a whole lot better than a solid Colbyashi, that sure does provide the rotation with that much more stability.

I may need to do a sequel rant about the broadcast later, but I'm gonna let it ferment in my noggin first.

MushMouth1
MushMouth1

Good to see your name again on a byline here Sam.

Agree it's a great signing and as long as he shows more want on the mound than Feldman then it's an improvement. Still think Feliz belongs as a starter and seems to me JD and Nolan see it that way too. Never hurts to have extra pitchers.

The only big concern I have right now is how much "tired" I hear from the players and Wash. The season is only a 1/3 done and even with the extra games the past two post-seasons it seems awfully early to be hearing it so much.

just sayin'
just sayin'

If Oswalt can come in and be a viable starter, I am very interested to see what happens with Feliz. The guy said he doesnt want to go back to the bullpen. Wash himself has said Nefti has a fragile psyche and the world series may have damaged it beyond repair. So what now? When he returns, barring another injured starter, he has lost his place in the rotation. Even though Harrison has strugglde through a few starts, I dont see them replacing one of their 2 lefty starters. Joe Nathan has been strong as fuck as of late. With the exception of last night, Ogando and Adams have been nasty. So where does that leave Feliz? A 6th inning guy? Can he go from ROY closer to solid starter to 6th inning set up guy?

If he does get moved to the bullpen and can accept any role that they give him, holy shit the Rangers just got even better. Solid starters, untouchable bullpen, and that fucking batting order. No way they arent getting sized for the real rings this Fall.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

That smell is a Texas lake, not a Sawx championship.

Lots of good pitchers don't top 94. It ain't the speed of the boat, it's the motion in the ocean.

just sayin'
just sayin'

There was no trade, dude. Oswalt was a free agent. It didnt cost the rangers anything to get the guy other than the pocket change of a few oilmen.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

Of course MLB had it at 330, the team had to turn the fucking deal in to the MLB. And if you havent noticed,(much to the chagrin of us former sportys). They dont fucking break fucking sports news here. FUCK, i think i learned to use the f word like this over on CoA

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