The Roy Oswalt express has finally pulled into Arlington.
Rumors about Oswalt coming to the Rangers started shortly after the loss in Game Seven, continued throughout spring training and never really flagged until Oswalt finally signed with the team on Tuesday. The deal, worth about $5 million, takes the best free agent pitcher off the market and gives the Rangers another starter to throw into the mix.
That's "another starter" not a "savior" and it is important to note the difference. There was a point when Oswalt was a verifiable ace who could front a good rotation and strike fear deep into the hearts of opposing hitters. Those days are well in the rearview mirror, which is why Oswalt was still on the market after Memorial Day.
Last year, Oswalt turned in mediocre results on the mound when he wasn't battling a back injury that has been a recurring problem for him in recent years. His 104 ERA+ and 6.0 strikeouts per nine while pitching in the National League wouldn't be close to good enough for a spot in this Rangers rotation without an injury opening the door.
Neftali Feliz is injured, of course, and that's a big reason why this deal has finally come to fruition. Feliz is likely to be out until after the All-Star break and might not return to the rotation when he does return to the team. Oswalt is the likeliest person to take Feliz's spot, but the combination of his performance last year and his health make him something considerably less than a sure thing to be better than Scott Feldman.
Heck, he's not even a sure thing to make it all the way to the big leagues. One wrong twist or turn of Oswalt's back could end his Rangers tenure as quickly as it began.
That makes you wonder how much name recognition played a role in this move. If Feldman was the guy on the outside looking in with the same stats, do the Rangers sign him?
It's a moot point now, but an interesting question to ponder. Also worth pondering? Did the Rangers sign Oswalt to keep him away from other teams?
Injuries to Roy Halladay, Ted Lilly and Jered Weaver upped the number of teams looking for a reliable starter and, perhaps, put some pressure on the Rangers to get a deal done now. While there has been some rather preposterous chatter that the Rangers are on pace to lose money, getting Oswalt for $5 million is far better than dealing prospects to bolster the staff down the line.
That's something you do out of desperation. The Rangers aren't desperate right now, just prudent enough to know that they'd rather not find themselves down that road at any point this season.