In a stagnant economy Roy Oswalt is being notoriously fussy about accepting a job offer in a location that’s not “perfect” for him.
I’m only half kidding.
Presumably, with the money he’s made in his career (according to Baseball-Reference, it’s somewhere in the vicinity of $91 million) he doesn’t need to continue pitching for financial reasons; obviously he wants to pitch in the right situation.
For him the right situation appears to be either the Rangers, Reds or Cardinals.
The Red Sox have been hot and cold on him and can use him. But Oswalt isn’t the big city guy and wouldn’t want to deal with the aggravation of Boston, the new league and Bobby Valentine.
Philadelphia is probably as “big” a city as Oswalt would agree to and he did so only reluctantly because it was in the National League, the Astros were horrific, it was short-term and the Phillies had a chance to win a World Series or two while he was there.
The Cardinals don’t have the room in their rotation for him and they’d like to trade Jake Westbrook or Kyle Lohse and sign Oswalt, but if that happens it won’t be until mid-late-spring training at the earliest until clubs see what they need and deal with injuries of their own before taking either one of those mediocre pitchers with high salaries.
The Reds can absolutely use him, but are saying they don’t have the space in their budget to pay Oswalt what he wants ($5 million ain’t cutting it) and GM Walt Jocketty thinks Oswalt is waiting out the Rangers.
The Rangers starting rotation is full and they could use—not need, could use—a bat more than Oswalt.
He’d welcome a return to the Astros if the Astros weren’t on track to lose close to 100 games. Apart from nostalgia, what do they want with him?
The Astros’ Director of Decision Sciences Sig Mejdal will direct GM Jeff Luhnow to steer clear of Oswalt; then they can tell Oswalt to decide look for work somewhere else.
But it’s not an exact science.
Oswalt also told the Blue Jays and Indians that he’s not interested in pitching for them. The Blue Jays and Indians are two good teams that have under-the-radar shots at playoff spots.
It generally works out badly when a pitcher goes to a venue he would prefer to avoid because of money or because he needs a job. Teams that are told straight out that a player doesn’t want to play for their club would be well advised to take them at their word and move on.
So where does that leave him?
Right now, it’s either the Red Sox, wait for the Cardinals or sign with the Reds on a lowball contract.
It’s not as if Oswalt is a guarantee of health and performance.
He missed 9 starts last season with a back problem that was threatening to end his career. In August, he returned and pitched well with his normal velocity and durability.
But back problems are dicey.
He can still pitch and the best spot for both Oswalt and the teams supposedly interested is the Reds. Of all the clubs, they have the combination of space in the rotation and the clearer path to the playoffs.
If he’s searching for circumstances that are perfect and won’t take a down the line salary, he’s going to have to wait and see which teams get desperate.
And that won’t be until mid-late-March or perhaps into the season. Oswalt signing with a preferred team in April/May is better than an “oh, okay already” signing like he’s doing someone a favor in Februrary/March just because he wants to get it over with and has no other choice.