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Oswalt could be a good catch for CardinalsPosted Wednesday, January 4, 2012, at 3:12 PM
By COREY NOLES
UPDATE: In Bernie Miklasz's column today he noted that GM John Mozeliak today said there is no truth to the Oswalt rumors. It's rare for the Cardinals to address a rumor like that, so I'm not sure how to read into it. Another story floated today was that they aren't interested in him as a starter, leaving one to infer there may be an interest as a reliever. How Oswalt would feel about that is unknown. Basically, what I'm saying is that this column is based on reports and rumors - nothing official. Thanks for reading CN
On Tuesday afternoon, reports in the Boston Globe and SI.com tied the Cardinals to veteran free-agent right-hander Roy Oswalt.
Oswalt, who was originally shopping for a three-year deal, is now said to be open to a one-year deal in an effort to give him a chance to prove that he is ready to compete without back concerns. After missing starts in Philadelphia last season, the team declined its option.
The original report listed only the Cardinals and the Yankees as being interested. Oswalt has long been believed to have an interest in pitching for the Cardinals, but current contracts may or may not prevent a deal from happening.
With the return of ace pitcher Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals have little use for another starter unless they can move someone else. While the Cardinals have been believed to be interested in Oswalt for some time, current contracts would make a move difficult.
Pitcher Kyle Lohse made it clear very early in the offseason that he had no interest in a trade. With full no trade protection, that is certainly his right. On paper, he put up the best numbers of any Cardinals pitcher in 2011. Frankly, I would keep him.
A friend pointed out another interesting point of view on this that I should add. At this point, Lohse's trade value has never been higher. If there's a team willing to take him and, for instance, Mitchell Boggs, it might be possible to get something decent in return.
Starter Jake Westbrook also has no trade protection, but hasn't been as outspoken about reluctance to accept a move. Westbrook could be an asset in the bullpen, but it's already crowded and $8 million is quite the price for a right-handed reliever.
The other question remains, if you could swing a Westbrook trade, is what would you want in exchange? Personally, I think the largest need still lies in the middle infield. Descalso, likely the starting second baseman, could be more useful in a utility role. Many are still concerned that over exposure could be an issue for Descalso in the long run. Personally, I have confidence in him, but if there was a chance to upgrade at second base then it needs to be done. Frankly, we've lacked a solid second baseman since Fernando Vina.
The biggest plus in my opinion to an Oswalt acquisition is that he would be a good way to bolster the starting rotation while the team anxiously awaits the arrival of young arms like Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn into the starting rotation.
With Westbrook locked up for one year with a mutual option he could be an attractive option for some teams. The Yankees are looking to beef-up their rotation, but at minimal cost. Westbrook for $8 million would seem a logical number 3 or 4 starter at a reasonable price for a shorter term.
Lohse, on the other hand, has $11.8 million remaining on the final year of his contract, but could be more attractive to the Yankees. That same high point could likely be the fall out of a potential Lohse-Yankees move because Yankees GM Brian Cashman has expressed the team's desire to minimize next year's luxury tax assessment.
While I realize at the current time, this is purely conjecture, the signing of Oswalt is a definite possibility.
The 34-year-old Oswalt went 9-10 in 2011 with the Philadelphia Phillies and posted a 3.69 ERA. While he only started 23 games last season, he is confident that his back is healthy and that he is ready to prove himself once again. In St. Louis he would be back alongside former teammates Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran.
Assuming he's willing to take a one-year deal, for less than the $16 million that he would have received from the Phillies (I'm thinking $11-13 million), he is certainly worth a shot. While he's no longer a top of the rotation starter, in the number four or five slot he would be an excellent addition if he can stay healthy.
I can't help but be excited at the possibility of an excited, rejuvenated Oswalt in the rotation. While I have no idea which Oswalt we would receive, if it's anywhere even remotely close to the value we got from last year's Texas toss-out, then you can't go wrong. If not, you're only out one year. At this point, it's vital that incoming manager Mike Matheny be given all of the tools humanly possible because he has a big enough hill to climb already.
One thing is for sure, in just a few short weeks, we'll be watching a very different Cardinals lineup in Jupiter, Fla. Don't underestimate this bunch, because in numbers they have every bit as much of a shot as the 2011 crew.
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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.
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