Is there anyone in Royals-land who doesn’t know the team needs a couple of top notch starting pitchers? Most of us assume the Royals will be competitive in 2012, but the boys in blue probably won’t contend for a title, primarily because of their lack of quality starting pitching. The Royals hitting and fielding is comparable to the best clubs in the American League, but their pitching just doesn’t measure up – yet. So, Royals fans will just have to wait until the young and talented arms on the farm mature and join the big league club in another year or two before we can order our tickets to the playoffs.
But as a long suffering Royals fan I feel compelled to ask – why do we have to wait?
There is just one difference-making pitcher still on the free agent market who could immediately impact the Royals and meet several critical needs. The Royals need a pitcher who won’t block the path of their young arms, a pitcher with a proven track record of success and leadership, a pitcher who is affordable. Roy Oswalt is all of these things. He’s only seeking a one-year deal (to prove he’s recovered from his back problems, so he’s highly motivated to put up some great numbers) and most likely he’ll sign a much more lucrative contract with another team by the time our high potential young hurlers reach the bigs, he’s been a number one pitcher on a staff that included Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, and at a one-year commitment of $10 million for a definitive #1 starter (it’s been reported that this is the amount he’s seeking) – that’s about as affordable as you’re going to get.
Before any of the recent rumors regarding Oswalt’s 2012 destination began swirling, the Tigers made him an offer of $10 million per year. But yet, he didn’t sign with them. This could mean there’s something intangible, something more than money that he’s seeking.
Several reports have indicated that Oswalt wants to play nearer to his home in Mississippi, although I haven’t seen any quotes to that effect, and it may just be an excuse to explain why he hasn’t already signed with the Tigers or Red Sox. If this was true, I don’t understand why he hasn’t already returned to the Astros. They could certainly use him and no team would be more geographically appealing to him. However, the Astros haven’t even entered into the equation, except within the musings of their hopeful fan base.
Most recent reports persistently indicate that Oswalt wants to play for the Cardinals or the Rangers. With every day that passes, these possibilities seem less and less likely. The Cardinals haven’t made a sufficient offer (probably because they already have good starting pitchers) and the Rangers stated they would need to move someone out of their rotation to make room for Oswalt (which they don’t want to do), and Roy doesn’t want to be a reliever (and no one in their right mind would pay $10 million for a bullpen swing man anyway), so these possibilities appear to be incompatible.
After the Cardinals and Rangers, the next most likely suitors for Oswalt are reported to be the Reds and Phillies. But last Saturday, Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Reds weren’t actively pursing Oswalt, but merely “kicked the tires” to determine if he was planning to stick with his $10 million asking price.
Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports has indicated the Phillies had an interest in Oswalt, but they haven’t been aggressive in seeking starting pitchers because, well, with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels on their team, they don’t need to.
The only other team widely reported to be in the mix for Oswalt is the Red Sox, and their General Manager Ben Cherington recently stated “We’re going to keep looking for ways to improve the team, including the pitching staff, but I wouldn’t expect any major changes between now and the report date.”
So what is Oswalt looking for and is there another team he could potentially sign with? He wants to start, he wants an opportunity to prove he’s healthy, he’s accustomed to being the ace of the staff and this is a role he’d like to assume again. Can you think of a team that could help him to fulfill these wishes? I can – the Royals.
It was already reported on Kings of Kauffman by the venerable Michael Engel, that Oswalt would not be signing with the Royals. However, to be fair, this post was written when we were all certain Oswalt was on the verge of finalizing a contract with the Cardinals. With every day that passes, the door cracks open a little farther for other teams such as the Royals to step up to the plate.
Can the Royals afford Oswalt? Baseball Reference estimates the Royals 2012 opening day payroll to be $70.5 million. That’s just 3 spots from the bottom of the American League payroll rankings, above only the Oakland A’s who are going through a fire sale, and the brilliantly managed Tampa Bay Rays who lead the league in cleverly conceived club friendly contracts. If Dayton Moore thought we were one or two players away from contending, I’m absolutely certain the Glass family would cough up another $10 million. Don’t you think Roy Oswalt in a blue uniform would put ticket and concession buying fans in the seats at Kauffman stadium and generate more revenue for the team? You know it would. I’m convinced that if Royal-Nation caught wind of an exciting development that could breathe life into our playoff hopes, there would be a Chief’s style traffic jam at the corner of 435 & I-70, 81 times this Summer.
One of the factors when considering Oswalt must be to determine whether he is healthy enough to play. Oswalt landed on the disabled list last year with a back strain that has apparently prevented some teams, such as the Yankees, from bidding on him. However, a closer examination reveals that Oswalt has experienced back problems for years and it’s never really affected his performance (in 2010, his ERA was 2.76), and he aggravated his back in 2011 not by pitching, but by running to first base – something he wouldn’t be doing in a Royals uniform.
Last season, between the day Oswalt strained his back on April 15 and the day he admitted he was experiencing pain and went on the DL ten weeks later on June 24, his ERA was 4.75. Do you know the ERA for the Royals starting pitchers in 2011? It was 4.73. While pitching in so much pain that he had to be placed on the DL, Roy Oswalt’s ERA was the equal of the Royals 2011 pitching staff. (Not counting spot starters, or starters demoted to Omaha. I think my calculator would have exploded if I had attempted to determine the starting ERA including Sean O’Sullivan and Vin Mazzaro.) That’s the absolute worst performance Oswalt is capable of delivering. Everything else is upside for a team like Kansas City.
So Dayton Moore, riddle me this – Who could fulfill our need to lead our lackluster pitching staff, not block the path of our developing young studs, and do this at a club friendly price? The answer is Roy Oswalt. Oswalt might not want to play for the Royals, but I don’t think we should assume this. Why wouldn’t he consider a team that he knows is going to provide him with run support, in a pitcher friendly ball park, against soft AL Central competition, in an environment that is going to be fun this year? Maybe Dayton Moore should give Steve Berthiaume of ESPN a call and see what he thinks?
As fans, we’re left with the question, why not Roy Oswalt? It’s a question that’s worthy of discussion and begs to be answered. However, there’s only one way to find out if Roy Oswalt would consider playing for the Royals. Dayton Moore needs to ask him.
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