The Roy Oswalt Option

I surely hope that rival front offices don’t read this post and decide to react, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take.

Over the last two seasons, Philadelphia’s Roy Oswalt has been overshadowed by the Trifecta of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, and quite justifiably so. Compound those three arms with the injury to his lower back and anyone can understand why the former 20-game winner is being undervalued this offseason.

Earlier today our favorite ESPN correspondent Buster Olney tweeted this (link in favorites):

For a starting pitcher with seven straight years of 30 or more starts (averaging well over 200 innings mind you) before last year’s injury, taking a 1-2 year $8-$16m flier deal should be a no brainer for the Tigers. There are several reasons for this but bottom line, injury questions aside, Roy Oswalt is a quality right handed arm with a career ERA+ of 133 and a WHIP of 1.194.

Verlander is the ace, of course, but Oswalt would slide into the No. 2 spot in the rotation and relieve some pressure off of Fister, Scherzer, and Porcello. The fact that Fister would handle being labeled the “no. 2” guy in Detroit after only 10 starts pitching for a contender is concerning, especially when eight of his starts came against the Cleveland, Baltimore, Kansas City, Minnesota, and Oakland (all losing records last year).

Oswalt is considered a ground ball pitcher (1.31 Ground Outs/ Air Outs split – 1.07 is league average), and while the Detroit infield should cause some concern in that area he’s only given up more than 20 home runs in a season once in his career (23 in 2008 with Houston) so his damage should be extremely limiting, especially with the vast outfield in Comerica Park.

Furthermore, there are some rumors out there that Detroit will simply let Jacob Turner start in the fifth spot in the rotation, or that they would consider signing a Bartolo Colon or Jeff Francis or Joe Saunders to a one year deal until Turner or even Drew Smyly are ready to join the rotation at some point this year. I can’t tell you how bad of an idea this would be, especially since the Tigers are serious about returning to the ALCS.

Why wouldn’t it be a good idea? Well, note the reasons mentioned above and then consider a postseason rotation of Verlander/Oswalt/Fister with the ability to toss in Scherzer/Porcello based on the year they have and matchups provided. That’s certainly more formidable than Verlander/Fister/Scherzer/Porcello.

Finally, consider what I previously said about acquiring Matt Garza. Garza would cost the Tigers at least Jacob Turner and probably another young, potentially valuable arm. Is he a better pitcher than Roy Oswalt over the next year or two? Probably, seeing as how he would be a safer risk since he is five years younger than Oswalt, but is he so much better that he’s worth losing Jacob Turner’s potential? I doubt it.

Furthermore, signing Oswalt would leave open the possibility that the Tigers could use Turner (or any other young arms) in a trade for a 2B/3B later in the year if the need is great enough. Generally speaking, offense is much easier to acquire in mid-season than pitching and would most likely hold true this year as in years past.

The bottom line is this: if signing Roy Oswalt is a possibility, I would much rather see that option exercised since it leaves room for future moves. A Matt Garza trade, while sexier, limits that reality. The Tigers are going to be a young, competitive team in 2012 and must approach filling the SP, 2B, 3B situations as economically as possible in order to maintain their dominance in the AL Central for the next few years.

Oswalt allows them to do that.

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