On Thursday afternoon, former Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt, who has long been linked to the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers (as well as the Phillies), announced that he would pitch in 2012...just not until the middle of the season.
The 34-year-old made the announcement via his agent, who spoke of Oswalt's great health – which was a huge concern in 2011 – as well as his desire to pitch in the big leagues again, despite his earlier assertion that he might retire following the end of his previous contract.
His decision to toe the rubber at some point in the season leads us to the conclusion that he is going to be doing so for a contending team, and that the Phillies are absolutely going to be in the mix, even though they more or less had zero interest in signing him during the off-season due to his injury history and salary demands.
But now that Oswalt will ostensibly serve as a hired gun during the middle of the season, it greatly increases the chances that the Phillies sign him, given their concerns at the back end of the rotation, the lessened cost of signing him, and perhaps most importantly, his familiarity with the club.
It's not too dissimilar from what the Phillies did in 2009, when they signed right-hander Pedro Martinez in the middle of the season. Pedro, who was 37 at the time, made his debut in August, and had a 3.63 ERA in nine starts, and would go on to make three starts in the postseason.*
*Side note: The 2009 season has to be one of the greatest in the history of the Phillies. Despite the fact that they lost in the World Series, very few seasons top it, as far as the fun factor. That team had Raul Ibanez's first half, Ryan Howard's second half, Cliff Lee's arrival, Pedro's Sunday night game against the Mets, and three of the greatest postseason games in team history (NLDS Game 4, NLCS Game 4, World Series Game 1). Easily of the top five greatest seasons in the history of the club. Food for thought.
With question marks in the rotation abounding after Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, the late-season boost of Roy Oswalt could be an invaluable addition. Even with his health issues (which could be severely mitigated by a shortened season), he can still be a solid addition to the rotation while simultaneously not being terribly expensive.
It'd be unlikely that he'd duplicate his success in 13 games with the Phillies in 2010, where he went 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA, but he wouldn't necessarily need to. His real value wouldn't come in August in September (if it did, it means the Phillies are in some trouble), but rather in October, where he would almost certainly be more valuable than either Vance Worley or Joe Blanton.
There are still a ways to go until Oswalt decides where he is going to play, and much of that decision is going to rely on the needs of the individual teams, but it'd be hard to imagine the Phillies not being in the mix come July.