Roy Oswalt would like to spend his 2012 season in either Arlington or St. Louis. Unfortunately for him, the two teams that met in the 2011 World Series both have full starting rotations at the moment, and don’t seem keen on making room for him, especially at the price he’s reportedly asking for at the moment (roughly $8-10 million by most accounts). The Boston Red Sox would like to add some depth to a rotation full of question marks, but they appear to be low-balling Oswalt at the moment, and haven’t made any significant moves so far this winter. That leaves one team currently reported as in the hunt for Oswalt as a likely landing spot for the former Astros’ and Phillies’ stand-out: your very own Cincinnati Reds.

Would Oswalt be a good fit for the Reds? Absolutely.

Oswalt battled injuries in 2011, but as recently as 2010 he was able to pitch 211.2 innings between Houston and Philadelphia, putting up a 2.76 ERA and 3.27 FIP while striking out 8.21 batters per nine innings in the process. That’s an outstanding performance, and made Oswalt a 4.7 fWAR and 5.1 bWAR player that season. Even more encouraging moving forward is the fact that Oswalt pitched pretty well after returning from the disabled list last season, posting a 3.91 ERA over 61.2 innings over his last two starts with a 7.4 K/9 and 2.18 BB/9 while averaging just over 6 innings per start. Oswalt certainly comes with injury risks, but there’s still a lot of reason to bet on his ability to perform, especially when you’d be asking him to fill a mid-rotation role on a staff headlined by Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos.

Unfortunately, the Reds are apparently up against the boundary of their 2012 budget as well, and would need to clear some payroll space in order to acquire Oswalt. It’s always difficult to make assumptions about a team’s budget from the outside-looking-in, given that we know basically nothing about the franchise’s budget plan, but we can make some inferences from the fact that John Fay thinks that trading Homer Bailey could be an option towards freeing up some salary. The odd thing is, Bailey is only scheduled to make $2.425 million this year, and I find the idea that a MLB franchise in the Reds’ position would allow $2.5 million to come between them and a one year deal for a starting pitcher they want to acquire to be a bit of a hard pill to swallow. Maybe the Reds really don’t have the cash available to stretch their budget by that much, but that would be pretty surprising to me.

Here’s the thing though: the last time I contributed to this site, in analyzing the Latos trade, I noted that one of the more under-appreciated aspects of building a team was the value of having a coherent organizational strategy, and that’s even more true now that the Reds have traded for Sean Marshall as well as signed Ryan Madson to a one year contract. The Reds are as pot-committed to going for it all in 2012 as any team in baseball so, at this point, they should make any move that upgrades them at the margins this season.

Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that 2012 isn’t just the Reds’ best chance to win the World Series since 1990, it’s also their best chance for the foreseeable future as well. Even just looking ahead to 2013, the Reds will likely be without Ryan Madson and Brandon Phillips, and scheduled raises to Cueto, Jay Bruce, and Joey Votto alone will account for roughly $12 million in additional payroll. Which isn’t to say that the Reds won’t still be a good team this time next year, but it’s going to be very difficult for them to maintain the level of talent that they have on the roster right now. And so, to that end, if I were in the GM’s chair I’d do what I had to do to acquire Oswalt at this point (unless there’s something really worrisome in his medical reports, anyway). Maybe I wouldn’t go so far as trading Bailey, but I’d certainly think about it, given his history of shoulder problems and the fact that he’s already reached his arbitration years despite never starting more than 22 games or pitching more than 132 innings in a season.

At the end of the day, the Reds are at a bit of a watershed right now. They have a good team, to be sure, but the Cardinals will hardly fade into oblivion with the return of Adam Wainwright and the acquisition of Carlos Beltran. A weak division otherwise would seem to give them a great shot at the wild card as a fallback (and there’s still a possibility that a second wildcard is added this season, which would change the calculation quite a bit), but Philadelphia, Atlanta, Washington, San Francisco, and Arizona all figure to provide quality competition in that regard as well, to say nothing of Miami, Milwaukee, and maybe even Colorado or Los Angles on the periphery. After the substantial investment the Reds’ organization has made in this coming season, it would be downright tragic to miss the postseason over $2.5 million.

33 Responses

  1. rfay00

    If we could sign him like we did Madson (not all the cash in one year and leave the rest as part as the buyout for the next year) then we should be able to get him. I would be curious on what teams would offer for Bailey. Anyone think it will be anything we could use now?

  2. conard.carroll

    Roy Osalt is the present hidden behind the Christmas tree the owners forgot about… Sign him, use him, dump him at the end of the year without giving anything else up but cash.

  3. Y-City Jim

    With Oswalt’s recent health woes, I don’t think it is wise to deal Bailey. Either take on the extra salary or go with the present slate of players. By all means, don’t make an emotional decision, which I feel many do when evaluating Homer Bailey’s abilities.

  4. I-71_Exile

    Oswalt’s age and declining abilities make me really nervous but I can see the wisdom in signing him for a year…at the very least it keeps him away from the Cardinals. I wouldn’t trade Homer—but I’d definitely consider moving him to the bullpen if there’s an opening. He could take Masset or Ondrusek’s slot.

  5. Dave Lowenthal

    Brien, I think you’re reading too much into what Fay said. I find it hard to believe that the Reds have 5.5M lying around to pay Oswalt. I think what Fay probably meant was they’d need to move a significant amount of payroll, including a pitcher, and the logical pitcher is Bailey. Which isn’t quite the same thing as what you interpreted it as. Maybe I’m wrong. Hard to say.

  6. lionel muller

    We may keep Homer Bailey. Why we have to keep Nick Masset ? He was horrible last year. Go back to MLB-TV and you can watch plenty of games that Nick failed.He is a failure in savings games. Ray Oswalt is a necessity compared to Masset and Bailey too. WJ, please attack Oswalt. This will give us the WS.

  7. Drew Mac

    I like the idea of Oswalt in the rotation (in leiu of Arroyo or anyone who gets injured). However, I do believe there is a question we should be asking at this point. IF the Reds are in serious contention at the trade deadline, does getting Oswalt eliminate any opportunity of acquiring a front line starter midseason (if need be)? . . . If so, I say hold off for now and save the salary room. At this point, there is no guarantee that Oswalt’s back can withstand 30+ starts (or even 20+ starts). Now, I know the key difference in the two scenarios is that we lose prospects midseason and don’t if getting Oswalt now. However, if Oswalt’s salary is the one thing keeping WJ from pulling the trigger now, then it is likely that a David Wells-type trade is not going to happen if Oswalt is acquired.

  8. Matt WI

    @Drew Mac: I think signing Oswalt would be the same thing as a trade for another pitcher at mid-season. They’d be likely be looking for an Oswalt, and well, here he is. I find it really difficult to believe that they’d add an arm of value above Cueto and Latos if that’s what you mean by “front-line.” The cost of that would be enormous. But…. what if pitching is just dandy but the bats are struggling? Frankly, I’d always rather they error on collecting pitching than batting, so, end of the day, if Oswalt can get done, do it.

    • Drew Mac

      @Drew Mac: I think signing Oswalt would be the same thing as a trade for another pitcher at mid-season. They’d be likely be looking for an Oswalt, and well, here he is. I find it really difficult to believe that they’d add an arm of value above Cueto and Latos if that’s what you mean by “front-line.” The cost of that would be enormous. But…. what if pitching is just dandy but the bats are struggling? Frankly, I’d always rather they error on collecting pitching than batting, so, end of the day, if Oswalt can get done, do it.

      I am not sure if WJ would be “looking for an Oswalt” at midseason. One advantage of waiting until midseason is the ability to sift through those pitchers with injury problems throughout the year. Would any team have traded for Oswalt at midseason last year? . . . . Of course, we cannot have this perspective before the season begins. Also, while I agree the price would certainly be high, there are several solid veteran pitchers not under control beyond ’12 on teams that are may not be competing for a playoff spot this year (Greinke and Shields come to mind). It is true that these rentals can be expensive. However, from time to time, deals can be had.

      With all of that said, I am not necessarily against signing Oswalt. In fact, I hope they do. I just believe that if salary is, indeed, what is holding a deal up, I fear that signing Oswalt would preclude the team from doing anything else. Suppose the Reds sign Oswalt and everyone in the rotation remains healthy and productive. If there were an injury to a position player and a productive position player could be had, would signing Oswalt keep WJ from being able to acquire the player? . . . These are the issues that cause me to have some pause with Oswalt.

  9. Matt WI

    Or in other words, I’d rather have as much good pitching as possible all season isntead of waiting for half the season to get over.

  10. per14

    What has swayed me on this is that getting him would keep him from going to the Cardinals. That turns what might a 1.5-2.0 win swing (this is just my rough idea as to what he might be worth over what he would replace) into a 3.0-4.0 win swing.

    It would be an embarrassment of wealth and would give the Reds flexibility to make a move during spring training if one was there for the taking:

    Latos
    Cueto
    Oswalt
    Leake
    Arroyo/Chapman/Bailey/Francis

  11. per14

    meant to say “depth” not “wealth”. d’oh.

  12. Matt WI

    @per14: You know, I kind of think your words were two sides of the same coin. I don’t know about others, but I have to admit a small part of me is off-put at the idea of adding Oswalt simply because it’s so “un-Reds like.” I’m so well conditioned to the small market team that might make something happen that it’s difficult to get my head around the idea of being a team with such a roster of players that it really should make things happen.

    It’s a different sort of pride to be the team with limited resources that made it happen from within to being a team that goes up in budget and scope and hires/trades for a few mercenaries along the way.

    It’s all so illogical of course, and of course I want the Reds to be as competitive as they can, and they are a long way from being a Chicago/New York/Boston type team. Perhaps, for a short window, it’s time we as Reds fans get to enjoy the problem of handling some prosperity. So bring on Roy Oswalt and lets see this team pile up some W’s!

  13. Aaron_Redlegs

    My gut says that this is not a good idea. I think that no one was surprised when he wasn’t healthy last year and, while I’m fairly certain he will be on the mound more this year, I’m sure that I don’t relish the idea of the figure the Redlegs pay to find out being closer to $10 mil. than $5.

    If WJ is going to lay down serious money for him, I would hope they have the sense to insist on the deal being incentive heavy. Something along the lines of a reasonable base salary ($3 mil.?) and a healthy bonus for simply being on the field, say, something like $4-$4.5 mil for 25 starts or 150 innings. Maybe some other performance bonuses.

    But then again, Madson’s already got dibs on WS MVP, right?

    That kind of deal mitigates the negative if he crashes out and, should he perform, gives them all the more cushion if Bronson and Bailey don’t step it up.

  14. TC

    @I-71_Exile: Great handle, btw. Actually I like both of the pitchers you mentioned. Especially Massett. I’ve also heard from many sources (as recently as last night on the Hot Stove League on WLW) that Bailey takes a long time to warm up, meaning he is not well suited to the bullpen.

    For everyone:
    If projects can be believed, Bailey is projected to be one of the best, if not the best starter on the Reds this year. Personally, I’ve been hearing how great this man is for too many years and am tired of hearing he’s only 19, he’s only 20, he’s only 21… he’s only 24. STOP ALREADY!! I say trade Bailey if you must for a piece you need that has equal value in return and benefits the team this year. But I think factoring in Oswalt to that trade discussion doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    • Drew Mac

      @Drew Mac: The Reds don’t have the assets to trade for a frontline starter anyway right now.

      They wouldn’t have the chips for a half season rental? . . . . Milwaukee rented Sabathia for Rob Bryson, Zach Jackson and Matt LaPorta (and a player to be named later-. Of those, only LaPorta was in the 2008 top 10 among Milwaukee prospects (in a weak farm system). All CC did was go 11-2 down the stretch. I believe Reds’ system has more than enough prospects to get a frontline rental.

      • Drew Mac

        They wouldn’t have the chips for a half season rental? . . . . Milwaukee rented Sabathia for Rob Bryson, Zach Jackson and Matt LaPorta (and a player to be named later-. Of those, only LaPorta was in the 2008 top 10 among Milwaukee prospects (in a weak farm system). All CC did was go 11-2 down the stretch. I believe Reds’ system has more than enough prospects to get a frontline rental.

        The player to be named later in the Sabathia trade was Michael Brantley.

    • Travis G.

      The Reds don’t have the assets to trade for a frontline starter anyway right now.

      I was going to say that all Oswalt would cost is money (admittedly, a lot of it, and none of it mine). I still think the Reds are going to need an upgrade in LF, 3B and/or SS by the end of July, so they’ll need to hold on to some of their trade chips.

      If they do sign Oswalt, the logical odd man out is Chapman, unless he really comes roaring out of spring training (a great problem to have, sure). Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to build up his arm strength in Louisville, where he can tinker with his secondary pitches.

      Adding a guy who’s beat us for years and was part of the Phillies’ ballyhooed rotation is the type of move that not only helps the team win (which improves attendance), but also gets casual fans excited — which also puts butts in the seats.

      • al

        If they do sign Oswalt, the logical odd man out is Chapman, unless he really comes roaring out of spring training (a great problem to have, sure). Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to build up his arm strength in Louisville, where he can tinker with his secondary pitches.

        Are you assuming Bailey gets traded when they sign Oswalt?

        Chapman is almost certainly going to start in AAA already.

        Cueto, Latos, Leake, Bailey, Arroyo, Chapman, Francis

        That’s already 7 pitchers. Adding Oswalt without trading a pitcher means that Chapman, Francis, AND someone else has to go to AAA.

        The only one that could be is Leake, and he was your #2 starter last year.

        Hence the problem. Obviously moving Arroyo would be the best way to improve the rotation, but it doesn’t seem like that can happen.

      • Travis G.

        Are you assuming Bailey gets traded when they sign Oswalt?

        Actually, no, but I wasn’t counting properly. I’ll assume Arroyo is an immovable object, and I would be surprised if Francis made the Opening Day roster, with or without Oswalt, so I guess that leaves Leake as the other odd man out. I think it’s pretty reasonable to expect Oswalt to be better than Leake over a full season.

  15. al

    @Drew Mac: The problem with this theory, that getting a guy now precludes them from getting someone later, is that it sounds like they are already at budget now.

    if they get someone like oswalt now, they can trade bailey and/or masset to clear space. no guarantee they could do that midseason. also, they can structure his deal so he gets paid over a few years etc. if they trade for a guy midseason, his contract probably won’t be structured like that.

    so if they are really out of money for this season now, getting a guy now is actually a lot more likely than getting a guy midseason, because there are more creative options now than just taking on salary.

  16. al

    this was a good post because it gets at the marginal value of a win.

    oswalt probably only represents an improvement of about a win over bailey this year. however, the reds are in the position where adding one win is way more valuable than for most teams because they project to be a bubble playoff team.

    if you project to be a 75 win team or a 95 win team, adding one win doesn’t change your playoff odds very much.

    but if you project to be an 85 win team, one additional win can up your odds to make the playoffs a ton. playoffs lead to additional revenue and additional attendance the following year, which leads to more revenue.

    so if there was ever a time to open the pocketbook for a one win improvement, this is it for the reds.

  17. Brien Jackson

    @Drew Mac:

    LaPorta was the 23rd best prospect in baseball prior to the 2008 season and Brantley was a high-minors OBP machine. Also, who’s going to be selling a frontline rental this year? Hamels? Nope. Cain? Probably not. So…Greinke?

    • Drew Mac

      @Drew Mac: LaPorta was the 23rd best prospect in baseball prior to the 2008 season and Brantley was a high-minors OBP machine. Also, who’s going to be selling a frontline rental this year? Hamels? Nope. Cain? Probably not. So…Greinke?

      I’m not sure, but Shields and Greinke do come to mind. Also, at midseason, there is a much fuller picture of revenue (if the team is hot, it is likely that payroll is less of an issue) as well as whether or not it is even worth going out to get someone else. After all, by the break, the Reds may actually be sellers.

      If not, will a top shelf rental be available? I cannot predict the future. However, I would think that a pitcher at least as effective as Roy Oswalt will be available at midseason and could be had for what the Reds have to offer.

  18. TC

    Ugh, news right now is dreadfully non-existent. But it’s the calm before the storm. Next weekend is not coming soon enough. 😥

  19. TC

    On a darker note, the description for the CBS power ranking is a bit unfortunate for the Reds. I’ll only quote the negative:

    “…Bad business: They appear to be the only team in baseball that views Ryan Ludwick as something other than bench effluvia. Prognosis as of 11:14 a.m. GMT on Jan. 26, 2012: Could this team manage itself? I would feel better about its chances if it could.”

    Seems he’s not very familiar when talking about Ludwick who should only be the 4th OF. He also shows himself to be a Dusty hater. Very unfortunate. Seems you guys aren’t the only ones.

    What happened to the Dusty-o-meter from last year?

    • secondguessingfanbase

      On a darker note, the description for the CBS power ranking is a bit unfortunate for the Reds.I’ll only quote the negative:

      “…Bad business: They appear to be the only team in baseball that views Ryan Ludwick as something other than bench effluvia. Prognosis as of 11:14 a.m. GMT on Jan. 26, 2012: Could this team manage itself? I would feel better about its chances if it could.”

      Seems he’s not very familiar when talking about Ludwick who should only be the 4th OF.He also shows himself to be a Dusty hater.Very unfortunate.Seems you guys aren’t the only ones.

      What happened to the Dusty-o-meter from last year?

      ESPN now has a fellow named David Schoenfield that does a ton of the writing on their MLB website. Him not believing in the Reds doesn’t bother me. Doesn’t bother me that he’s not a Baker guy. What does is the way Schoenfield will inject DustyHate into every Reds article or every article that mentions managers or a player that played or will play for Baker in 2012. It’s too much from a professional writer, and certainly too far considering he never backs up the little zings with he has for Dusty every other morning.

  20. pinson343

    @TC: That CBS guy was sarcastic about a lot of people. “Bench effuvia” is a nice phrase but doesn’t tell us anything – we know Ludwick has hit poorly the last two seasons. And he will be the 4th OFer. In that role, I’m not convinced that Ludwick will be a dud.

    As for Dusty …

  21. pinson343

    Good argument about the importance of 2012. Oswalt is in decline and might not be that much of an upgrade. I’d be OK with 1 season of him, but not if it means trading Homer.

  22. pinson343

    The price for Oswalt is of course going down. He has to take a below-market offer at this point.
    If the price falls to where the Reds can pick him up without letting someone go, I’m all for it.

    He might just fall into the Reds lap for 2012, which would be a good thing. You never know how much depth you’ll need at starting pitcher.

  23. Myles

    I still don’t get the love for Homer Bailey.
    5 years and his career best ERA+ is 93 and he did that in 2009.
    He’s been remarkably consistently sub-average and he gets hurt a lot.
    There’s only one reason to think he might break out and that’s his SO/BB has been improving since 2009… but how long are you gonna wait for the miracle to happen with this guy?