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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Let's Take On Oswalt

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According to his agent, Roy Oswalt will be looking to sign a one-year deal to prove that his back issues are not a major problem.  The 34 year old right hander suffered a back injury last year that limited him to just 23 starts in 2011. However, assuming the Red Sox could get a physical to make sure Oswalt is reasonably healthy, I say let's take on the contract. He's one of the three best starting pitchers availabe, along with Edwin Jackson and Hiroki Kuroda.

Oswalt is no longer the dominant force he was from 2002-2007, but he can still be a very serviceable starter. With Boston already having Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett, they are all set with front line starters. I feel that Daniel Bard, who looks like he will enter the rotation for the first time in his career, best fits as the number five guy, and Oswalt would be a great fit for a number four.

He has never posted a FIP under 4 in his long career, and last year posted a 3.69 ERA and 3.44 FIP. While his strike out rate fell down to a career low 6.02/9, his walk rate also dropped to 2.14 BB/9, down from his 2010 number. Looking at his recent career, I would expect his K-rate to improve upwards around 7 per 9, while his walk rate should stay pretty stagnant, with maybe a small rise due to pitching in the patient AL East. One stat that will almost definitely regress from last year is his HR/9, which fell down to a career low 0.65. With regression and a little addition due to the smaller parks in the AL East, I would realistically expect that number to hover between 8.5 and 9.5 next year, if in Boston. However, he also had a BABIP-allowed of .316, which should surely regress closer to his career .296 mark, which would definitely help his stats some. While his velocity on his fastball has fallen every year since 2009, Oswalt is still in the low 90's, and if healthy should get that velocity back up to the low-to-mid 90's. He still gets good movement on his curveball and slider (which is also in the low-90s for velocity), and has a solid changeup to add in the mix.

Oswalt may not be the same pitcher he once was, but he can still be a solid 3 WAR pitcher, which is extremely valuable for a number four starting pitcher. Assuming he can contribute at least 25-30 starts this year, he is a guy the Red Sox need to look hard at. When it seemed he was looking for something long term, his health risk was something to avoid. However, for a one year flier, he is a chance the team almost has to take. He should be able to be had at one year and around 12-14 million dollars, which is a nice risk/reward one year deal. (According to Fangraph's method of determining worth, 1 WAR is worth about $5 million, so if Oswalt could put up 3 WAR, he'd be worth $15 million). The deal may put the team slightly over the luxury tax, but his numbers come off the books next year, and his contribution as the fourth starter could be just what this team needs to push them into the suddenly unclear American League playoff picture.

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