Roy Oswalt Is Not a Relief Pitcher

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There’s been speculation that the Cardinals are interested in Roy Oswalt and Oswalt would love to pitch for the Cardinals. With the recent news that Oswalt would be willing to take a short-term deal, the number of teams seriously pursuing him increased exponentially; but Oswalt is still the Mississippi guy who’d prefer to steer clear of New York or Boston if he has a choice. Presumably, he would’ve liked to play in Texas, but the Rangers don’t have room for him and the Astros don’t need him as they rebuild.

The Cardinals would be a fine spot for him, but the surprising story is that the Cardinals would like Oswalt to consider a move to the bullpen with the possibility of moving into the starting rotation if he’s needed.

This will not work.

There are pitchers who can start and relieve and make the transition seamlessly. Derek Lowe could do it; Phil Hughes could do it; John Smoltz could do it. But the circumstances were vastly different for those pitchers and others who’ve shuttled from one role to the other.

Oswalt has been a starter his entire professional career; has had back trouble; and plainly and simply would not know how to relieve in preparation or practice.

It’s a bad idea if it’s a legitimate thought.

I don’t think they’re serious about it; nor do I believe that Oswalt would do it. Why should he? He’d have other options (including the Yankees and Red Sox) if he needed a job and wouldn’t have to go to the bullpen, so why should he do it for the Cardinals?

My guess is that the Cardinals want Oswalt for the starting rotation and are trying to find a taker for Kyle Lohse or Jake Westbrook. Westbrook is the more likely pitcher to be moved because he’s more consistent and cheaper.

Westbrook will be paid $8.5 million in 2012 and has an option for 2013 at $8.5 with a mutual option and a $1 million buyout if the Cardinals decline the option; simply put, he’s guaranteed $9.5 million.

Lohse has $11.875 million coming to him in 2012.

If we’re going by ability, Lohse is better; if we’re going by who’s a better pitcher, Westbrook is who you want. Lohse has always been and presumably will always be that pitcher who elicits sighs and lamentations of how good he could be if he ever put it all together. Here’s a newsflash: Lohse is 33-years-old and this is pretty much it. In a good year, he’ll pitch really well and the good years will be the bread of an overstuffed sandwich of 2-3 years where he got blasted, hurt or both.

Westbrook will give 180-200 innings and you know what you’re getting from him—he’s mediocre, but for a back-of-the-rotation starter on a short-term contract teams can (and will) do far worse.

Oswalt may be waiting until the other free agent chips—Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda—fall into place; then he’ll make his decision and it won’t be as a reliever for anyone.

With Oswalt, the Cardinals might sign him under the pretense of using him as a reliever with the pitcher publicly stating such inanities as, “I can make the transition”, blah blah blah; but the truth is that they’ll have Oswalt in the bullpen until they can deal either Westbrook or Lohse and make sure that Adam Wainwright is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery; that won’t happen until late in spring training when injuries make teams desperate for a veteran starter on a short-term contract.

Oswalt will not be a reliever if he signs with the Cardinals. He’ll be a starter.