So, after a noticeable uptick in smoke around the Roy Oswalt-to-Texas thing throughout late Tuesday morning and early Tuesday afternoon, and growing questions about whether the Rangers were truly intent on signing Oswalt or were throwing up a classic diversionary smokescreen, we finally have the closure we were seekingt. After years of near-misses and almost-wases, Roy Oswalt -- according to Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News, and now ESPN.com's Jim Bowden -- is going to be a Texas Ranger.
Earlier today, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick noted that various team officials were convinced that Oswalt was heading to Texas, and declared the Rangers to be the prohibitive favorites in this "sweepstakes." Shortly thereafter, the USA Today's Bob Nightengale chimed in with confirmation from a "high-ranking Rangers official" that the team was hot and heavy for Oswalt's services, and said that the Rangers were actively engaged in negotiations with Oswalt's camp.
A little after that, FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi reported that the only apparent roadblock left was approval from Rangers ownership on the Oswalt expenditure (which hasn't been disclosed as of yet), and indicated that even though there were mixed feelings within the Rangers' front office on signing Oswalt, and even though the team was already over budget, Nolan Ryan's sway could push the Oswalt deal across the finish line. They also referenced the possible Oswalt signing as a "preemptive strike" against the Angels, who lost Jered Weaver to a back injury last night and who could have conceivably pursued Oswalt if the Weaver problem looked to be serious.
So, yeah. There's your response to the Neftali Feliz problem. We don't have official dollar figures as of yet, but there have been rumblings of Oswalt seeking a pro-rated $7.5 million salary for the remainder of this season, and if the total expenditure is indeed in that vicinity, you have to think that the Rangers were looking at Feliz as a huge rest-of-2012 question mark -- as somebody who may not make it back until the last six weeks of the season, if he made it back at all. Barring another sequence of unforeseen events, this puts the kibosh on Feliz returning to the rotation this season, as he'll almost certainly move to a late-inning role in the event that he actually does make it back to the mound healthy. I don't care to speculate too hard just yet on what this means for Feliz's 2013 rotation candidacy, but it's probably not a good thing for the Feliz-as-a-starting-pitcher advocates.
I'm assuming the Rangers saw some good things out of Oswalt when he threw for them, and I'm assuming the Rangers genuinely believe that this signing constitutes one of their best possible uses of resources -- that is to say, that they didn't panic and overpay once faced with the possibility of the Angels snagging him. I'm also thinking that the front office has earned some benefit of the doubt in its personnel decisions; that doesn't mean you have to be ecstatic about this signing, or that you even have to like it on its surface, but it does mean that you should at least keep an open mind about it.
With that in mind, though, we're still looking at all of the same issues with Oswalt that we've been looking at for months. He's comparatively old, he's losing heat off his fastball, he still has latent back problems that could drive him into retirement before his arm is fully exhausted, he's moving to a tougher league for pitchers, he's likelier to pitch like a solid mid-rotation guy than a true front-line starter ... and, according to Bob Nightengale, he's not going to be ready to go for another month, meaning that, in the interim, you'll see plenty of Scott Feldman, and a lot of prayers that the Rangers don't lose another starter in the meantime. It's going to be interesting to watch unfold.
The other thing to keep in mind here is that with the Rangers reportedly being over budget already, the Oswalt deal may effectively end any and all hopes of adding more payroll closer to the trade deadline. If you were looking for the Rangers to pursue a legitimate top-of-the-rotation starter over the next month or two, that hope is pretty much out the window at this point. If you consider Oswalt to be that pitcher already, great ... but as I stated already, I'm not sold on that being the case. You also hope that no other significant holes develop as a result of injury and/or lacking performance, because addressing such issues with minimal wiggle room in the payroll wouldn't figure to be too much fun.
But, hey, Roy Oswalt. It's over, and it's done, and everyone can buzz about it. I hope it works out.
Update: Ken Rosenthal is reporting that Oswalt will bank between $5-6 million this season, pro-rated for the amount of time he spends with the team this season. CBSSports.com's Scott Miller is reporting that it will be a $5 million commitment, with $1 million in attainable incentives. Jon Heyman echoes Miller's information, and says that the $5 million figure is guaranteed, not pro-rated.
With this information in hand, we can either conclude that Oswalt was categorized as a special over-budget expenditure for a team that's now destined to run a deficit yet again in 2012, or that the Rangers' sensational early-season attendance numbers have made some things possible that might not have been possible otherwise ... or, jumping on the burgeoning conspiracy theorist bandwagon, that some of this money might have been freed up by imminent bad news on the Jairo Beras front, as nullification of that deal by the league would already have the Rangers in a bad spot from an international signing standpoint, anyway. There's more than one way of looking at this.