Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Roy Oswalt and the Red Sox Need One Another

Roy Oswalt seems to be running out of options. His preferred destinations, Texas and St. Louis, have full rotations and/or little payroll flexibility.

The Cardinals have reportedly made a low ball offer and may want the 34-year-old to pitch out of the bullpen, something he does not want to do.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, have an available rotation spot and have reportedly offered Oswalt a one-year contract in the $5 million to $7 million range.

Reportedly, Oswalt would like to pitch for a contender in 2012 (Texas and St. Louis played in the World Series last year). Yet, he remains reluctant to pitch in Boston. That's the puzzler.

Considering the great tradition of the Red Sox, the fact that they are perennial contenders, and that they have some of the most knowledgeable and passionate fans in the game, it’s rare that a player doesn’t want to play in Boston.

The issue seems to be Oswalt's desire to pitch closer to his home in Mississippi.

However, the Red Sox and Oswalt seem to be a perfect fit for one another. The Sox are in desperate need of a fourth starter and a veteran presence for rotation that showed a lack of maturity last season. In return, the Sox can provide Oswalt the opportunity to compete for a playoff bid.

The reason so few teams have shown any genuine interest in Oswalt is due to the degenerative disc issue that affected his 2011 season. The issue is a classic red flag. Degenerative disorders get progressively worse over time. But the Red Sox only need/want Oswalt for one year.

The question for the Sox (or any other club) is, how many innings can Oswalt realistically give them?

Due to his back condition, Oswalt was limited to 23 starts last season, posting a 3.69 ERA and 93/33 K/BB ratio over 139 innings.

Given the unlikeliness that Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard will give the Red Sox anything even approaching 200 innings this season, and that even Josh Beckett has only done so once in the past four years, the Sox need another workhorse aside from Jon Lester. At a minimum, they need more depth.

Oswalt isn't likely to be a workhorse ever again. However, prior to last year, he had thrown at least 200 innings in six of the prior seven seasons and seven of the previous nine. Simply put, Oswalt used to be quite reliable.

At his best, Oswalt has consistently been among the top pitchers in the game, posting a 159-93 record and a stellar 3.21 ERA over 11 seasons with the Astros and the Phillies.

Though Oswalt may no longer be an innings-eater, an All Star (three times) or a 20-game winner (two times), he is a veteran presence who would bolster a very suspicious Red Sox rotation.

Whether he pitches in Texas (and the latest reports indicate that this is increasingly unlikely), St. Louis, or Boston, how often will Oswalt go home to Mississippi during the course of the season?

Pitchers aren't allowed to leave their team on non-pitching days to go home and visit their families. And teams generally get just one off day each week, Monday or Thursday.

So what would it matter if Oswalt had to catch the occasional flight out of Boston? After all, Logan is an international airport that surely has daily flights, or connections, to Mississippi.

The entire notion that Oswalt needs to be close to home is a bit absurd. And it really brings his competitive fire into question.

If Oswalt's heart isn't into pitching for Red Sox, then he wouldn't be a good fit. Such an absence of desire could easily lead to him being overwhelmed by the offensive fire power of the AL East.

But the truth is, at this point, Roy Oswalt and the Red Sox seem to really need one another. They are, perhaps, each other's last, best hope for the 2012 season.

Come to Boston, Roy.

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