One of the big things we talked about 10 days ago with respect to the mid-season trade market was how the Rangers, given their current financial/pitching situation and the recently enhanced difficulty of restocking the farm, probably weren't going to swing a monster trade for a front-line starting pitcher -- unless, that is, they were sufficiently concerned about how well the over-30 duo of Colby Lewis and Roy Oswalt would hold up down the stretch and into the post-season, or unless they harbored significant doubts about Derek Holland, or some combination of those issues.
And while I don't know that the latest developments of today are ultimately going to compel the Rangers into a more heated pursuit of an ace, this is nevertheless a troubling turn, as the local beats are reporting this afternoon that the Rangers have scratched Roy Oswalt -- who has returned to Houston to undergo a more thorough medical examination -- from his scheduled Monday start due to back tightness, and Colby Lewis is apparently doubtful for his scheduled Tuesday start due to a recurrence of right forearm tightness.
Lewis left as a precaution after five innings last Wednesday after he felt his arm tightening up, and there was talk immediately thereafter about how he was going to be fine and able to complete his next start, but yesterday's scheduled bullpen session came and went without Lewis taking the mound, and now he's due to be examined by team physician Dr. Keith Meister tomorrow to determine the severity of his arm problems.
And through all of that, the operative sentence from Jeff Wilson's account of today's announcements appears to be this: "The Rangers do not believe Oswalt's injury is serious, though both he and Lewis could wind up on the disabled list." Scott Feldman has already been tabbed to replace Oswalt tomorrow, and assuming that Lewis ends up being scratched as well, we'll likely see Martin Perez recalled to start in his place; if Oswalt and/or Lewis end up on the disabled list, we may end up seeing Neftali Feliz activated to reclaim a rotation spot sooner rather than later.
You also have Justin Grimm down at Round Rock to function as an emergency rotation option, as well, so the Rangers have options here -- not the most ideal options, mind you, but they have decent options, and that's much better than the Rangers of not all that long ago who were backed into a corner with sub-replacement pitching depth any time one of their mainstays went down.
So, you've got these decent options, and, rationally speaking, there's no cause for the Rangers to panic and rush out at this point and expend trade resources to acquire a mid-rotation stopgap just to cover for Lewis/Oswalt. This isn't (yet) a dire situation that necessitates a swift and forceful reaction. What it is, though, is a concerning situation, in that Lewis's arm is still acting up (never mind the degenerative hip condition), and that Oswalt's lower back is acting wonky yet again after a long history of doing so in the past; it was, after all, only last June that his back had devolved into such a debilitated state that he had taken to openly hinting at retirement. It's certainly possible that this is just a blip on the radar, and that Oswalt will be okay from a health standpoint down the stretch ... but I can't imagine anyone would be too terribly surprised if the rest-of-season prognosis here turned out to be a grim one.
And, again, this latest scare could conceivably drive the Rangers into a more aggressive position where their pursuit of a front-line starting pitcher is concerned. Yeah, they've made it abundantly clear that they want one, but the thing that isn't so crystal clear is whether they're really and truly inclined to relinquish the young talent and the cash required to actualize a trade like that. If they're troubled enough by what is transpiring with their veteran arms right now, or if they believe that this is just the tip of a nasty iceberg where the health of Oswalt/Lewis are concerned ... then, yeah, they're probably more eager to plow ahead on a big-time pitching trade today than they were yesterday.