Dear Dayton Moore: Why Not Roy Oswalt?

Roy Oswalt will likely play in a different uniform this year. Why shouldn't he play in Royal blue? (Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE)

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.

For comparison purposes, Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka, Philadelphia’s Joe Blanton, and Minnesota’s Joe Nathan all earned over $10 million last year.  Who would you rather have?

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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Topics: Dayton Moore, Free Agent, Kansas City Royals, KC Royals, Pitchers, Roy Oswalt, Royals

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  • mmeade17

    I really hope Dayton Moore has at least inquired about Oswalt. I have to believe he has and was simply rejected. I don’t think Oswalt wants to come to KC, despite how good it might be for him. I think he perceives the Royals as most of the rest of the country probably does, as a non-contender. He wants to go somewhere he has a chance to win. I hope Moore is still trying, calling his agent, sending gifts, whatever it takes, but I think ultimately Oswalt doesn’t want to be in KC.

    It sucks because he would be great here if he’s healthy.

  • mmeade17

    I really hope Dayton Moore has at least inquired about Oswalt. I have to believe he has and was simply rejected. I don’t think Oswalt wants to come to KC, despite how good it might be for him. I think he perceives the Royals as most of the rest of the country probably does, as a non-contender. He wants to go somewhere he has a chance to win. I hope Moore is still trying, calling his agent, sending gifts, whatever it takes, but I think ultimately Oswalt doesn’t want to be in KC.

    It sucks because he would be great here if he’s healthy.

  • jim fetterolf

    Oswalt has been a #1 starter once in the last three years, hasn’t been an ace since ’06, and has a bad back. That’s not worth $10 million for a couple of wins and sending Duffy to Omaha. That money will be better used to sign Greinke next year or extend our young stars.

  • jim fetterolf

    Oswalt has been a #1 starter once in the last three years, hasn’t been an ace since ’06, and has a bad back. That’s not worth $10 million for a couple of wins and sending Duffy to Omaha. That money will be better used to sign Greinke next year or extend our young stars.

  • michael.allen.engel

    My best guess is that the Royals inquired (they were meeting with Oswalt’s agent early in the free agent signing period) and may have been told that he wasn’t interested in coming to Kansas City. If there was a chance to get him and it took $10 million to do it, of course I’d be for it – and if it ends up being something that gets us “only a couple more wins”, well what if we’re at 85-77 at the end of the year and those couple wins could have had the Royals at 87, 88, 89 wins? That’s money well spent.

    As it is…doubt the Royals had a chance. Roy might realize that with his back issues this is his last chance at a real rotation spot and he wants it to be on a contender. The Royals aren’t contenders. Yet.

  • michael.allen.engel

    My best guess is that the Royals inquired (they were meeting with Oswalt’s agent early in the free agent signing period) and may have been told that he wasn’t interested in coming to Kansas City. If there was a chance to get him and it took $10 million to do it, of course I’d be for it – and if it ends up being something that gets us “only a couple more wins”, well what if we’re at 85-77 at the end of the year and those couple wins could have had the Royals at 87, 88, 89 wins? That’s money well spent.

    As it is…doubt the Royals had a chance. Roy might realize that with his back issues this is his last chance at a real rotation spot and he wants it to be on a contender. The Royals aren’t contenders. Yet.

  • the5allens

    great article, and I agree.

    however, I would like to comment on the stated concern (common in articles about this team) of adding a pitcher “while not blocking the young guns”. With a rotation like ours, if the young guns can’t force their way into the rotation, maybe they are more like Dan Reichert (or Kyle Davies) and less like Justin Verlander. Maybe we shouldn’t worry too much about leaving an opportunity for them, when our placeholders aren’t exactly overwhelming.

    Montgomery is apparently the only one percolating close to the majors. Lamb is still on the shelf, and probably won’t be right for at least a year after he resumes pitching. Odorizzi is probably at least 1 year out, and maybe 2.

    Meanwhile, Sanchez will likely be gone shortly, maybe even mid-season to make room for Montgomery. Chen is already pitching on borrowed time, and Hochever is on the bubble of being a bust (particularly given his draft slot). So no, adding a pitcher for one year (or even more) won’t block anybody. Don’t get me started about having Paulino in our rotation.

    imho, adding an ace – even on a mid-long term basis – won’t truly block anybody and will only help the team in both short and long term. In fact, wouldn’t it be nice if Montgomery could just worry about being the 5th starter when he arrives, let him get his legs under him, before the fans and media are desperate for someone – anyone – to lead this rotation? (anyone remember the crushing hype on Alex Gordon?).

  • the5allens

    great article, and I agree.

    however, I would like to comment on the stated concern (common in articles about this team) of adding a pitcher “while not blocking the young guns”. With a rotation like ours, if the young guns can’t force their way into the rotation, maybe they are more like Dan Reichert (or Kyle Davies) and less like Justin Verlander. Maybe we shouldn’t worry too much about leaving an opportunity for them, when our placeholders aren’t exactly overwhelming.

    Montgomery is apparently the only one percolating close to the majors. Lamb is still on the shelf, and probably won’t be right for at least a year after he resumes pitching. Odorizzi is probably at least 1 year out, and maybe 2.

    Meanwhile, Sanchez will likely be gone shortly, maybe even mid-season to make room for Montgomery. Chen is already pitching on borrowed time, and Hochever is on the bubble of being a bust (particularly given his draft slot). So no, adding a pitcher for one year (or even more) won’t block anybody. Don’t get me started about having Paulino in our rotation.

    imho, adding an ace – even on a mid-long term basis – won’t truly block anybody and will only help the team in both short and long term. In fact, wouldn’t it be nice if Montgomery could just worry about being the 5th starter when he arrives, let him get his legs under him, before the fans and media are desperate for someone – anyone – to lead this rotation? (anyone remember the crushing hype on Alex Gordon?).

  • mmeade17

    @jim fetterolf That’s because he’s been on the Phillies the last three years, and they had 4 number one starters. ERA in years since 2006: 3.18, 3.54, 4.12, 2.76, 3.69. Each one of those comes with a FIP of no higher than 3.80. In 2010 he was 2.76 ERA over 211 innings, 8.21 K/9, 2.34 BB/9, and a 4.7 WAR. That’s an ace year. Even last year, with back problems, he went 3.69 ERA and 3.44 FIP. Is he a guaranteed ace? No, no one with a risk of injury is. Is he a potential ace? Yes, at least for one year. And i don’t know that Duffy would necessarily go to Omaha. The Royals could push Paulino into the bullpen where I think he belongs. I’m fairly confident no matter how much money the Royals have, they aren’t getting Greinke back, and signing Oswalt now do much in terms of signing young stars, as signing them doesn’t become an issue for a few years. Plus, adding Oswalt could help sign the young stars if he helps them get to the playoffs and generate revenue. They could even trade him at the deadline and push whatever’s left on his salary onto someone else. It could actually be cheaper than $10 million if they trade him.

  • jim fetterolf

    @mmeade17 Valid points, although I consider the break point for ace to be 5.0 fWAR. As for Paulino, projecting last year’s performance to 30 starts gives 3.9 fWAR, making him a #1 starter. I’ld be surprised if Oswalt with a degenerative disc and moving to the AL would come close to that. As for Oswalt’s value, two extra wins was what Scott McKinney predicted based on various projection systems, so that doesn’t justify the money. As for Zack, I think we can get him back if we want him. Next year we may not think we need to spend that kind of money, but if we do we have an extra $10 million from not using it on Oswalt, who won’t get us to the World Series even if he pitches like Verlander.

  • jim fetterolf

    @the5allens Neither Jackson nor Oswalt are aces and Paulino came in as a #2 starter based on his 2.6 fWAR last year, so he should be in the rotation.

  • mmeade17

    But it makes no sense to project Paulino’s numbers for 30 starts when he’s never been able to put up those numbers consistently. He had a decent (and I mean decent not great) spurt as a 28 year old pitcher who had bounced around MLB bullpens to rotations and the minor leagues. There is a reason for that. If you want to look at projections, look at what Bill James’ projections give Oswalt and Paulino at fangraphs (for Oswalt: 3.37 ERA, 3.52 FIP) (for Paulino 4.59 ERA, 4.00 FIP). There should be no question that Oswalt is the better pitcher. The real issue is money. I guess it comes down to whether or not you believe that David Glass will take that $8-10 million and save it to sign Hosmer and Moustaksas AND whether or not that $8-10 million will make the difference in signing them AND whether or not Oswalt could have value as a trade commodity or as a revenue producer via ticket sales, merchandising, potential home playoff games, etc. Personally, I think that $8-10 million is better spent getting value now (as most analysts feel Oswalt could be a steal at $8-10 million) than hoping on MAYBE signing Hosmer and Moustakas in the future (which is no where near a guarantee) with that money. I also believe signing Oswalt actually gives them a better chance to sign Hosmer and Moustakas later, via increased revenue, fan interests, and winning, which helps keep players around.

  • kcroyalsfanatic

    Its honestly maddening considering that 40% of his salary would be taken on by another team if the deal does not push the Royals into contention and we flip him to another team in the hunt at the break (unless there is a veto clause)

    I want to be myopic and believe that its not a matter of Daytons interest, its Oswalt’s

  • jim fetterolf

    @mmeade17 I agree that Paulino isn’t a lock, but stuff and maturity make him a possibility, whereas Oswalt’s work before his back injury makes his history irrelevant. It is my understanding that he has the same type of problem Mike Sweeney had, a degenerative disc, and those don’t get better.As for money, we can’t be sure, so I try to put myself in David Glass’ shoes, recognizing that GMDM wouldn’t have come on board without solid assurances that he would have the money to build a long term contender. That leads me to think that Glass gave him a pile of money, $350 million over five years is a common guess that makes sense under current revenues. If that is so, then money spent on Oswalt to get a couple of WAR, maybe, above Duffy, doesn’t make sense now when that won’t be enough to predict taking the Central, so I would save that money, give the kids a chance to get experience and prove themselves, then have the money for next year or later when we have the opportunity to get a pitcher who can put us over 90 wins. Glass has been investing in the team and he doesn’t need any more money, so I think he’s committed to the Process of growing internally without breaking the bank and trading the farm. I could be wrong, but that’s the feeling I get after watching the spending on the draft, international signings, and even the new FieldFX equipment. Those actions don’t say “Cheap!” to me, rather say that a plan is in place and David Glass is trying to build a legacy like Mr. Kaufman. We’ll just have to disagree at the moment. Good posts, I respect your thoughts.

  • didymus

    I’ve been saying this for the last month on the Royals website. Sign him for a year, let our young pitchers get one more year of experience, then let Oswalt (after proving himself, go to the highest bidder). It’s such a win/win for the Royals and Oswalt’s marketability in 2013. If he falls on his face in 2012, he retires to Mississippi as a mega millionare. Come on DM…I have always been one of your most vocal supports…do the right (and total logical thing) and sign the guy for 2012.

  • didymus

    I totally agree with you. I’ve said many times on the Royals blog that we should sign Oswalt to a 1 year contract in the range of $6-8 million. It is just so logical. If Dayton has already approached Oswalt’s agent, and the guy simply doesn’t want to play in KC, he should let the fans know that he made the effort. That will allow the fan base to move on, knowing we are going to stay with the starting pitchers already on our rooster.