[Editor's note: This was originally posted yesterday afternoon, but it was late, and I'm not sure everyone had a chance to see it, and it's a slow news day, so ... here you go.]
From what I can tell, the reaction to the Roy Oswalt signing within both the media and the general public has, up to this point, been rather polarized. There are those who are excited or infuriated by this deal to the point of irrationality, of course, but you're always going to get that 10-15 percent out there on the fringes of public sentiment; there are plenty more out there who merely like/dislike this commitment, though, who either feel that this was an important contract for a team in the Rangers' current position to get done, or believe that the Rangers could have done better for themselves and acquired a more favorable rotation piece with fewer questions by way of the trade market.
I'm still kind of ambivalent on the whole thing, myself; on the surface, I like Oswalt's chances of providing enough value to justify the base value of his contract, and while he may not provide $5-6 million of additional value above and beyond what Scott Feldman would have provided in a long-term starting role, the dearth of viable options behind Feldman makes this a nice hedge against more in the way of rotation adversity hitting the Rangers. I've already cited many of the reasons why Oswalt should give anyone pause, so I won't delve back into those in full detail right now.
There is something that I've been thinking about a little bit, though, and that's the glass-half-full perspective. I'm not going to pretend that I'm covering much in the way of new and unchartered ground here, as many of these same points have been raised both here and elsewhere by one voice or another, but public reaction mixed to the extent that it is, I figured I'd run through some of the potential pros on the Oswalt signing just because I can:
(1) Oswalt might be better/have more left in the tank than we think. To wit, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark tweeted the sort of reactions that you actually should expect to see on a pitcher after your team just committed $5-6 million to said pitcher for only 3-4 months of work:
A scout who recently saw Roy Oswalt throw was very impressed. Good news for #rangers.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) May 30, 2012
And, on top of that:
"He was nails,'' the scout said of Oswalt. "His stuff looked plenty good to me. He might be closer to ready than people think.''— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) May 30, 2012
My gun-to-the-head projection on Oswalt right now would have him producing an ERA/FIP in the high-threes to low-fours over the remainder of the regular season, and averaging right around six innings per start; I think more of the downside risk on Oswalt is tied to the danger of him not being on the field at all, as opposed to him falling off a cliff performance-wise. It is conceivable, though, that even with the cloud of "old age" and the move to a tougher league hanging over him, that the couple of months of extra rest -- and his quality defensive supporting cast in Texas -- will behoove him to such a degree that he can produce something around 2-2½ wins over the final three months of the regular season, and still have enough left in the tank to be a legitimate rotation asset for a championship-caliber team in October. Now, granted, I'm not sure that's where the smart money is, but ...
(1b) Nobody else gets Oswalt. I'm not especially big on the keepaway factor in general, as any kind of transaction should be constructed with the best interests of your team in mind above all else, but there probably was an element of this factor present in the Oswalt signing -- particularly if, as stated above, the Rangers do view Oswalt as a potential difference-maker in October, and were put off by the thought of him contributing to one of three potential World Series adversaries in the Cardinals, Dodgers, or (less likely, but still in the hunt) Phillies. Take that for what it's worth, I suppose.
(2) Neftali Feliz goes to the bullpen. Barring one of Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, or Colby Lewis succumbing to the injury bug and Scott Feldman concurrently being hit by a meteor, Feliz will be recast in a late-inning capacity if/when he makes it back from the disabled list, joining Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams, and Joe Nathan as the team's high-leverage weapons of choice, and leaving Texas to bring three of Scott Feldman, Robbie Ross, Mark Lowe, and Koji Uehara along for the October ride. Assuming Feliz can make it back healthy, you're looking at four premium relief assets on the low end, and, depending on how the Ross/Uehara/Lowe troika performs down the stretch, as many as 6-7 such pitchers. Throw in the added benefit of more off days in October, thereby increasing the odds of any one bullpen ace being available on any given night, and, well ...
No, that isn't an invincible cast. But it's the best bullpen in baseball, and, depending on how things play out over the next few months, it may not even be especially close between the No. 1 and No. 2 bullpens in baseball.
(3) Signing Oswalt only costs money. On the unfortunate end of the spectrum, there obviously aren't any compensatory draft picks waiting at the end of the tunnel for the Rangers where Oswalt is concerned; even under the provisions of baseball's expired collective bargaining agreement, obtaining any such picks would have required the Rangers to offer arbitration to Oswalt after the season (kind of doubtful, at best), and with the new CBA, obtaining any such picks is an impossibility, as Oswalt would have had to have been under contract since at least Opening Day and would have to have received a "qualifying offer" after the 2012 season of $12-13 million for one more season.
So, that's all something of a bummer ... but you have to examine the other end of the spectrum as well, and part of the upside in choosing the Oswalt path as opposed to, say, paying a premium in young talent for Cole Hamels or Zach Greinke or whoever else might conceivably become available, is that you get to retain your minor league assets. Thanks to baseball imposing caps on amateur spending in both the Rule 4 draft and international free agency, and, in effect, artificially leveling the playing field, it becomes tougher for a team with the Rangers' recent success to sustain the quality of incoming talent. Barring some creative finagling and circumvention of these restrictions on spending, the competitive advantage created by the Rangers pumping huge dollars into these amateur markets will wither away.
One could see how that might materially alter the front office's perspective on things, and how it could leave the Rangers less inclined to part with a valuable package of prospects for a rent-an-ace that, by virtue of the restrictions imposed on free-agent compensation by the new CBA, would not net any draft picks whatsoever, and would be even tougher to acquire than before, thanks to another wild-card spot and more teams being in the post-season hunt. I'm not saying that there wasn't/isn't merit to the idea of going after such a big fish in the trade market, because, after all, I've been selling this "go big or don't go at all" idea for a couple of years now ... but the dynamics have changed, the Rangers appear to have adapted, and perhaps Oswalt will prove to be a successful component of that adaptation.