[Editor's note: This post has been updated with some further thoughts on, well, everything.]
According to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, Neftali Feliz (right elbow inflammation) could be on the shelf until the All-Star break, and will, in any event, not throw for 4-6 weeks. The reported plan calls for Feliz to embark upon a throwing program after that four-week period of inactivity, and then probably make a couple of minor league starts at some indeterminate point after that, all of which will likely leave him sidelined until "the All-Star break and beyond." The MRI on Feliz's barking elbow revealed inflammation, but no discernible tear, meaning that this does project as more of a six- to eight-week injury than something of a potentially season-threatening nature.
In addition, Nolan Ryan went on the air with Galloway and Company on ESPN 103.3 FM yesterday afternoon, and stated that, in light of these adverse events, the Rangers will reconsider the possibility of adding Roy Oswalt:
"I'll be honest with you," Ryan said. "Jon Daniels is in flight today to Seattle. So I have to call in with him. We have many things to talk about. But that will be obviously one thing we'll discuss, about who's going to fill that rotation spot.
"Feldman is scheduled to do it right now and we obviously have Ogando in our bullpen, whether you'd want to take him and put him back in the rotation. But that leaves a big hole in your bullpen. Or if Roy is a possibility, I want to visit with J.D. and see what the scouts told him what they had seen because I really think that Roy wants to come back and as he has indicated prior that he would like to play with us so we'll take a look at that and see what happens."
Nolan is, of course, an unabashed Oswalt fan; there were reports around this same time two years ago that Nolan personally inquired into Oswalt's availability while he was still a member of the Astros. About a month after that, Nolan proceeded to tell basically everyone within earshot that Texas was interested in acquiring Oswalt, calling him "phenomenal" and citing his qualities as a "big-game pitcher" and the consistency of his stuff and approach over the years. I would not be surprised to hear one of these days that the Rangers actually had moved right to the precipice of completing a deal, and that such a deal was stymied by complications stemming from the team's then-ongoing bankruptcy imbroglio.
So, clearly, if worse comes to worse and the Rangers believe that the Feliz situation is going to linger well beyond the All-Star break, or have sufficient reason to believe that another component of their rotation is going to falter/break down at some point this season, we can anticipate Nolan making a strong push for Oswalt. That doesn't mean Nolan is going to throw all caution to the wind and propose throwing a $15 million prorated salary at Oswalt (all done while lovingly staring at a framed portrait of Oswalt with little red hearts substituting for his pupils and his heart cartoonishly bursting through his thorax), but I do feel as though we can expect Nolan to lead any charge on Oswalt that might transpire.
And, hey, perhaps the rest of the front office would eagerly jump on board with that. Perhaps even Jon Daniels would be on board with that. The three big issues with Oswalt, though, are that:
(a) Oswalt, by virtue of his decision to not commit to any team during the off-season, is not in pitching shape right now, won't be in pitching shape at any point in the immediate future, and, therefore, isn't somebody who you can just instantaneously plug into the rotation to smooth over Feliz's absence. Even if the Rangers went out right now and tendered a significant contract to Oswalt, getting Oswalt ready would take time -- time that, depending on the projected duration of the Feliz injury, would diminish the sense in signing Oswalt.
In other words, if there's reasonable confidence within the organization that Feliz will be able to return in eight weeks, and it takes Oswalt a minimum of 3-4 weeks to get into adequate pitching shape, and you have to throw more than $5 million at Oswalt to entice him to sign here ... well, in what way are you coming out ahead?
However, there's something else worth noting here. Jon Daniels hopped into the radio booth with Eric Nadel last night to cover for Steve Busby (who himself was covering for an ill Dave Barnett), and one of the things that Daniels mentioned was that the timetable of Feliz's injury could dictate whether he actually does return to the starting rotation this season, or if he's reassigned to the bullpen for the remainder of this season. I took that to mean that if Feliz's absence ends up stretching out closer to, say, mid to late August, and you have the post-season looming right there just a few weeks out, the Rangers will be more inclined to utilize him in a familiar late-inning role than they will be to go through the process of stretching him back out, knowing that he likely wouldn't be a part of the post-season starting rotation anyway.
If that ends up being the case, Oswalt begins to make a lot more sense. But unless things are more dire than the media conduits are making them sound, I don't foresee Texas throwing down the cash for Oswalt right now just because of the possibility that Feliz's injury could leave him sidelined for much longer than 6-8 weeks.
(b) Again, Oswalt is likely going to cost you more than $5 million to sign at this point. I suggested $7-9 million yesterday, which would tie together with Oswalt's previous demands of a prorated $10-12 million salary -- but, hey, perhaps Oswalt is willing to drop the asking price in exchange for a guaranteed rotation spot with a potential World Series team. I'd certainly like to think he'd be willing to do so, at least. Even then, though, that's cash that could be allocated to a number of different areas, and just because Oswalt is dangling out there doesn't automatically make him the best possible investment for this team.
(c) From 2008-11, Oswalt has been worth about 3-3½ wins above replacement per season ... there has been variation in that figure from year to year, of course, as he was awfully good in 2010 (4.7 fWAR), and then somewhat less inspiring in 2009 (3.0 fWAR) and 2011 (2.5 fWAR), but that's the approximate baseline you're working from. That's a good, solid, above-average starting pitcher, but it's not a front-line starter, nor is it a starter unencumbered by physical risk -- we're less than 12 months removed from Oswalt's back being in such a state that he was openly hinting at retirement, and though that issue has since subsided, we're also talking about a pitcher who's turning 35 in a few months.
The odds still seem to favor Scott Feldman locking down Feliz's role during his absence, and then the next step in that decision tree being taken if/when Feliz actually returns to the diamond. If Feldman gets stretched out, gets comfortable, recaptures his 2009 groove, and reasserts himself as a rotation asset, the Rangers will have an interesting decision to make on Feliz's rest-of-2012 role. There's also the acknowledged possibility of going back to Alexi Ogando, although the fact that he's in the bullpen as opposed to the rotation after a pretty good 2011 starting campaign (albeit one marred by a late-season breakdown, and one where he got by with just a fastball and a slider) tells us quite a bit about what the Rangers truly think of his longer-term prospects as a starting pitcher.
So, yeah. Give me Feldman, for the time being. I still wouldn't bet on Oswalt being tabbed as the solution here, but it's definitely on the table. So, too is Ogando, but not to the extent you might think. Or they could do something especially 2010-esque and -- cribbing this idea from AJM -- gun for a true front-line pitcher in the vein of Cole Hamels or Zach Greinke, which, after taking stock of the finished product, could well leave Texas in the position of bringing a gun to an October knifefight. That might not be the most efficient or elegant solution to the Rangers' emergent rotation problem, and would assuredly cost the Rangers some players that we have no desire to see them relinquish ... but, hey, flags fly forever.