There are multiple reports that free agent RHP Roy Oswalt is interested in becoming a Texas Ranger. Since becoming a free agent Oswalt has gone from looking for a long term contract to being open to a shorter contractm perhaps even a single year. If this is the case and media reports are true that he would like to join up with the Maddux brothers and Nolan Ryan then I think the Texas Rangers would do well to make a run at him. Combining his strengths as a veteran with the signing of Yu Darvish and moving Neftali Feliz to the rotation the Rangers could be fielding the best starting rotation in the majors.
The American League West is going to be the Wild West this year with the additions that the Los Angeles Angels have made this off season. The Angels are going to put out a starting rotation that is made up of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, Ervin Santana and Jerome Williams. It should give the Rangers a moment of pause to think that last years number 1 starter for the Rangers is the number 3 starter for the Angels this year. While I will argue the Rangers are offensively are the better team the 2012 war may come down to the rotations. If this is the case then the Rangers should try to sign Oswalt to a team comfortable contract. Should Oswalt sign then there will be an extra starter that has to be dealt with. In my opinion the starting pitcher that must be moved in that situation is Colby Lewis.
Roy Oswalt is a 34 year old RHP that has spent the majority of his 11 year career with the Houston Astros and a brief stint with the Philadelphia Phillies. Oswalt has a career win loss record of 159-93 that includes two 20 year seasons and three times being an All-Star. He also has a career ERA of 3.21 and a WHIP of 1.194. His career SO/BB ratio is 3.52.
In the 2011 season Oswalt suffered from injuries to his back that made him miss a large section of this season. But even with the back trouble he was able to put solid numbers with Philadelphia that included an ERA of 3.69, WHIP of 1.338 in 23 games. He allowed 33 walks but chalked up 93 strikeouts.
I suggested earlier today that if the Texas Rangers acquire Oswalt that someone would have to move out of the suggested starting rotation of Derek Holland, Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz and Colby Lewis. While it appears to be the common fan perspective that Harrison would move or should be traded I think that opinion is short sighted and that the better move would be to move Lewis to the pen.
Colby Lewis is terrific person and descent player but I do not believe he is a superior pitcher than Oswalt. He is two years younger than Oswalt but has had more of a transient existence that included a stint playing in the professional Japanese league. His 2011 stats were average and his place in the Rangers rotation would be the clear 5th starter. He put up an uninspiring 4.40 ERA, a descent WHIP of 1.23, and a SO/BB ratio of 3.02. He gave up 56 walks but chalked up 169 strikeouts. The most troublesome stat is that he gave up 35 home runs. With Ranger Ballpark in Arlington being a hitters park a starting pitcher cannot afford to give up this amount of runs and expect to win without the help of a great deal of offense support.
Lewis has proved in the past two off seasons that he is not afraid to go into the postseason. But what he doesn’t have is the years of experience of being a quality starting pitcher that the Rangers are lacking. Ironically Lewis with but three years of starting pitching experience is the veteran of the rotation. I think with Yu Darvish coming to the Major League and Nefatli Feliz coming out of the bullpen to a starting spot there needs to be someone there that can calm down the young guys. While I believe Derek Holland and Matt Harrison both have more of a future than what Oswalt has left, he fits the bill as the needed veteran arm.
Matt Harrison I believe should not be moved at all from this rotation, I believe that him paired with Holland could make a long term outstanding lefty-lefty combination that could give hitters troubles for years. Looking at the 2011 pitching numbers for Harrison and Holland would be nice to see that if one is expendable then both have to be. In the quest for the best ERA Harrison had a 3.39 ERA while Holland posted a 3.95. Looking at WHIP Harrison had a 1.276 and Holland a 1.354, again advantage Harrison. SO/BB ration for Harrison was 2.21 and 2.42 for Holland, giving Dutch a slight advantage. In home runs allowed Harrison gave up 13 and Holland gave up 22, advantage Harrison.
In the regular season these guys are virtually identical which when paired with what is expected from the arrival of Yu and Feliz will make an outstanding rotation with a veteran arm. As for what would have to happen to Colby Lewis is Oswalt comes, I think he would serve the Rangers best by moving back to the pen like he did with the 2007 Oakland As and the 2002 Rangers. If you can put down your anger for just a minute imagine a bull pen with Joe Nathan as closer, Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams, Yoshinori Tateyama, Scott Feldman in long relief, Mark Lowe, Colby Lewis sharing long relief duties and perhaps Martin Perez or another LHP in the case that the Rangers could move Koki Uehara. With that type of pen you wouldn’t have to stretch the starters and wouldn’t give up anything moving from starters to relievers.
I would love to hear your thoughts, just before you make them remember this, if Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels is convinced that Oswalt makes the team better and is healthy enough to do so then do you trust his judgment?