PHILADELPHIA - Roy Oswalt #44 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Walt Jocketty announced that the Reds are not interested in Roy Oswalt. But should they be?
"The media has been putting us into it. I'm tired of it," Jocketty said. "I try to be upfront with you guys. I've gotten a lot of calls from people. I'm not saying something couldn't ever happen, but there's nothing to lead me to believe we will sign him."
Yes, the Reds fancy themselves contenders. Yes, they've spent a little bit of scratch this offseason, hoping to take advantage of the depujolsing and unfielderation of the NL Central. No, they're not interested in Roy Oswalt. You could always ask five or six more times, just to be sure. I think I have Walt's cell number around here somewhere …
The Oswalt-to-the-Reds rumor had some legs, though, for a couple of reasons. First, we're running out of teams that Roy Oswalt wants to play for. He'll play only for a contending team that's close to his Mississippi home that will allow him to keep his beard and long hair should he decide to grow either. He's being picky, as he should be. Cincinnati isn't exactly next door to Mississippi, but it's only about a six-hour drive from St. Louis, a team that Oswalt was interested in.
The second, and more important, reason is that Oswalt on the Reds would make so much danged sense. The Reds are in the marginal-upgrade zone right now -- that magical, frustrating land of ambiguity where every extra win means a lot more to a team on the fringes of contention than it might mean to, say, the Phillies or Yankees. If a team in the marginal-upgrade zone can make that jump from 89 to 90 wins, it could mean tens of millions in extra playoff revenue. If the difference between Jake Westbrook and Brandon Dickson was even a single win for the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals, Westbook's $8 million salary paid for itself in World Champions-shirt-wearing teddy-bear sales alone.
Technically, the Reds don't even have a spot open in their rotation. They have Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos at the top of the rotation, and Mike Leake, Bronson Arroyo, and Homer Bailey at the back end. In case you stopped paying attention after the shirt-swiping incident, Leake actually had a very, very strong finish to his season. That would mean that either Bailey or Arroyo would likely have to sit for Oswalt. While Bailey's ERA has been remarkably consistent, the 25-year-old is showing signs of progress:
It's the walk rate that's looking mighty nice for a power pitcher who has struggled with his control in the past. With a little luck and some good health, Bailey has the potential to be a very good starter. It'd be silly for the Reds to give up on him now.
Bronson Arroyo allowed 46 home runs last year.
I mean ...
He could be good again. Since coming over to the Reds, he's had a great season, three good seasons, and one pretty-okay season. And also last season. With the 46 home runs, and all. Good gravy.
And he isn't leaving the rotation, especially so the Reds can spend more money. Arroyo is still owed $23.5 million over the next two years. He'll get every chance to reclaim his 2010 form, even if his 2006 form is long gone.
So, no, the Reds probably aren't interested in Roy Oswalt in the slightest. In a perfect world, though, where every player made the same salary, you'd have to think that the Reds would jump at the chance to put Oswalt in their rotation. If he's healthy, he'd almost certainly be an upgrade over Arroyo. The difference between the two might not be too much, anyway. Maybe just a win or two.
We'll know exactly how much that win means in September, of course. The Reds aren't interested in Oswalt, but they might wish that they were with the benefit of hindsight.