Veteran Roy Oswalt finds himself on the free-agent market this offseason after the Philadelphia Phillies recently elected not to exercise their part of his $16 million mutual option for 2012.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has to re-evaluate the status of his team, especially after the St. Louis Cardinals eliminated them from the 2011 postseason in a year in which the organization fully expected to bring a World Series title to the city.
Although Oswalt represents a vital part of the “dream team” rotation, led by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, the decision came as little surprise to the Major League Baseball world.
He went 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA over 23 starts in 2011.
The 34-year-old Oswalt has been one of the better starting pitchers in the majors for several years, thanks in part to the foundation of success he established as a three-time All-Star with the Houston Astros.
It’s unlikely that Oswalt will ever land a lucrative, long-term contract moving forward due to his age and lingering back issues.
However, he could generate a substantial amount of interest from teams looking to improve the front end of their starting rotation.
Here’s a list of possible interested teams:
1) New York Yankees — General manager Brian Cashman’s top priority revolves around retaining superstar left-hander CC Sabathia.
George A. King III of the New York Post reports that it could take guaranteeing a seventh year to keep Sabathia in the Bronx.
After Sabathia, the Yankees could use a No. 2 starter after missing out on signing three-time All-Star left-hander Cliff Lee a year ago.
It’s likely they’ll check in on big-time free agent C.J. Wilson or make a strong push to sign Yu Darvish, if the Japanese star right-hander decides to ask the Nippon-Ham Fighters to post him.
If they are unable to land either of them, how about Oswalt?
2) Boston Red Sox — This may sound bizarre, especially with the controversy surrounding Boston’s epic September collapse and the reports alleging Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey as participating in the drinking of alcohol during games.
With Lackey expected to miss the entire 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery, will new Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington look at internal options or explore the free-agent market?
Oswalt may be a good option.
3) Baltimore Orioles — Whoever the Orioles decide to hire as general manager will definitely want to improve a horrid starting rotation.
They can’t afford the big-name arms.
Oswalt could emerge as a legitimate free-agent option, but unless the money is too good to pass up, it’s hard to envision him in Baltimore.
4) Chicago White Sox — Mark Buehrle may depart Chicago via free agency, which would cause a void for new manager Robin Ventura.
The White Sox would probably turn to younger arms, such as Chris Sale and Zach Stewart, but you never know with Kenny Williams.
It doesn’t hurt to check in on Oswalt.
5) Detroit Tigers — Legendary skipper Jim Leyland has a talented squad that fell short of advancing to the World Series in 2011.
Justin Verlander rates as arguably the top starting pitcher in Major League Baseball, but Detroit reportedly isn’t against adding depth.
Sabathia’s name has surfaced, in addition to Wilson and Darvish. If Detroit misses out on the big options, it’s unlikely they look further.
You never know — Oswalt could add depth.
6) Texas Rangers — There’s a strong possibility the Rangers will lose ace C.J. Wilson, as he’s in line for a hefty free-agent contract.
If that happens, general manager Jon Daniels could look to make a trade, explore the free-agent market or evaluate all internal options.
CEO and team president Nolan Ryan has always liked Oswalt, especially since both of them share the bond of being former Astros.
7) Toronto Blue Jays — It would likely be hard to convince Oswalt, a native of Mississippi, to go north of the border to pitch.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos wants to improve the front of Toronto’s rotation and could do so via the trade market.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Anthopoulos takes a look at the free-agent market, which could lead to conversations about Oswalt.
Crazier things have happened.
1) Houston Astros — A very unlikely destination for Oswalt, despite his prior success in Houston and status as an Astros icon.
General manager Ed Wade told knotmove.com that he doesn’t anticipate the Astros being active on the free-agent market this offseason.
With the status of ownership in the air, and prospective buyer Jim Crane wanting to lower payroll, Oswalt’s return home is unlikely.
2) Chicago Cubs — The new-look front office, featuring Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, in place, Chicago may look to create excitement.
Epstein and company may keep a close eye on Sabathia, in addition to exploring potential opportunities with either Wilson or Darvish.
Chicago will look to unload disgruntled Carlos Zambrano and must make a decision on whether to pick up Ryan Dempster’s $14 million option
Depending on how everything unfolds, the front office may pinpoint Oswalt as a possible solution to help the team in the short-run.
3) Cincinnati Reds — The Reds inquired about Ubaldo Jimenez and James Shields heading into the non-waiver trade deadline.
General manager Walt Jocketty reportedly wants to add to the front of his rotation, especially with the team deep at the back end.
Oswalt could be the answer.
4) Colorado Rockies — The Rockies reportedly want to add a frontline starter via trade or by seeking a veteran on the free-agent market that wouldn’t mind consenting to a short-term contract.
Oswalt fits the profile perfectly.
Troy Renck of the Denver Post recently identified Oswalt as an ideal fit, if the veteran “has an open mind” to pitching in Colorado.
5) Miami Marlins — A new manager (Ozzie Guillen) and a new stadium two miles west of downtown has created plenty of excitement.
The Marlins reportedly want to spend money this offseason because of the new stadium, despite being known as a small market.
They have Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco under contract.
It never hurts to add depth.
Zambrano’s name continues to surface due to his relationship with Gullen. So has Buehrle’s name. The Marlins may check in on Wilson.
If certain attempts fail, the possibility of pursuing Oswalt may increase.
6) New York Mets — The Mets have enough on their plate in regard to trying to re-sign star shortstop Jose Reyes and the rumors pertaining to possibly dealing third baseman David Wright.
They reportedly want to improve the bullpen, but also need rotation help, since it’s hard to count on ace Johan Santana staying healthy.
The odds of New York spending heavy on the rotation isn’t high, yet it doesn’t hurt to check in on a starting pitcher of Oswalt’s caliber.
7) St. Louis Cardinals — The National League champions will focus on locking down Albert Pujols for the rest of his career.
There might not be much left over, especially if they re-sign Rafael Furcal.
Plus, they exercised the 2012-13 options for standout right-hander Adam Wainwright, which will cost $21 million over the two seasons.
Lance Berkman and Chris Carpenter have also agreed to contract extensions.
General manager John Mozeliak has always liked Oswalt and attempted to acquire him last season heading into the non-waiver deadline.
If St. Louis doesn’t re-sign Edwin Jackson, maybe they could convince Oswalt — an avid Cardinals fan growing up– to take a discounted rate.
8) Washington Nationals — Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann could use a strong veteran presence at the top of the rotation.
Oswalt’s name has previously been linked to Washington.
The Nationals will likely check in on all of the top free agents on the market, whether that’s Pujols, Prince Fielder, Reyes, Wilson or Darvish.
If the Nationals elect to add a starting pitcher, Oswalt could be effective at the top of the rotation and pass on knowledge to the young arms.
9) Philadelphia Phillies — Don’t count the Phillies out just yet.
Oswalt wants nothing more than to play for a contender at this point in his career, so what better team than the Philadelphia Phillies?
The Phillies may have declined his $16 million mutual option, but Amaro announced that Philadelphia will remain in contact with Oswalt’s agent with the hope of bringing him back for the 2012 season.
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