One executive of an interested team said he believes Oswalt will probably top the $2.5 million the late-starting Andy Pettitte is guaranteed by the Yankees but seems skeptical about whether Oswalt will meet his asking price or guarantee himself $5 million. Oswalt is now said to be more open geographically, and the substantial asking price has some surmising he plans to go to the high bidder.
Oswalt is also said to want to play for a team with a chance to win, so assuming the Dodgers don't get back in the derby, the Rangers would appear to be the safest bet to make the playoffs of the known interested teams, though the Red Sox, Phillies and Orioles all have a chance to make the playoffs.
Last year, Oswalt suffered a back injury and missed part of June and all of July. Conventional concerns were that a back injury can be a chronic this and that he was no longer dealing as an elite pitcher. The first concerns is a legitimate one. Back injuries typically get worse, not better. However, this would likely be a one year deal and Oswalt likely would not be ready to pitch in the Majors until he gets his work in the minors. This likely puts July as the target date. A fully healthy Oswalt should be able to log about 16 games, half a season's load. How much is that worth?
The second concern is whether Oswalt is a different pitcher than he used to be. Here are his numbers from last year by month:
April: 5 GS, 27 IP, 7 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 3.32 FIPThere really does not appear to be much difference between his pre-injury (April) and post-injury (August and September) starts. His performance also does not look much difference than what he accomplished from 2005 to 2009 (6.8 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 3.50 FIP, 22.8 fWAR, 23.5 rWAR). Towards the end of the season, his fastball was chugging around 92.8 mph which is perfectly within range of what he has done in the past five years. Simply put, Oswalt should be viewed as he has been for the last few years with the caveat that there are some medicals out there that might be somewhat concerning.
May: 3 GS, 18 IP, 4 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, 2.97 FIP
June: 5 GS, 26.1 IP, 4.4 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 5.04 FIP
July: Disabled List
August: 5 GS, 26.2 IP, 6.8 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, 2.58 FIP
September: 6 GS, 41 IP, 6.8 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 3.27 FIP
With a line of 90 IP, 6.8 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 3.50 FIP, that is worth in the neighborhood of 1.7 to 2.1 WAR. This year the cost per win is about 4.5 MM in the general market. With a 20% injury reduction application, you wind up with a value of 6.1 to 7.6 MM. If you believe that the Orioles are indeed a playoffs squad, then you are going to see higher attendance at the end of the season which may make the cost per win closer to 5.5 MM. In the scenario, Oswalt's value might be closer to 7.5 to 9.2 MM. Last winter, Oswalt declined an alleged offer from the Tigers for 10-12 MM. At the moment, it appears that teams are balking over handing him 7.5 MM. It may well be that my estimation of his current ability is too rosy and that his medical file leaves one wanting from one with fewer entries. I do not know.
If I was Dan Duquette, I would pull the trigger and jump if Oswalt is asking for 5 MM. That is a rich one year deal, but it certainly gives you a solid pitcher for this season and, with a 12 MM offer, gives you a solid one for next year or a compensatory pick. Oswalt would push Tommy Hunter to the pen or Norfolk. This would likely result in the team gaining an extra win or two in the standings with Oswalt tossing the ball every fifth day instead of Hunter. Who knows...maybe passing through Frederick in June, Oswalt could show Dylan Bundy a thing or two about change ups.
Remember, for 5 MM or more the Orioles have gone after Garrett Atkins, Vladimir Guerrero, the second coming of Miguel Tejada, etc. I actually can see Oswalt as part of a plan and not just haphazard, high-cost shrugging.