Roy Oswalt is without a contract two weeks before the start of spring workouts.
And he is scrambling.
Oswalt is known to prefer a team close to his Mississippi home, but his top choices – the Texas Rangers or St. Louis Cardinals – may not have enough money left in their budgets and/or room in their rotations to sign him.
That has allowed a number of suitors to remain in contact with Oswalt. The Red Sox, Reds and Phillies are among them, according to major-league sources. Because Oswalt is the “last man standing” among the upper-tier pitching free agents, so to speak, new clubs could emerge. That is particularly the case if they believe they can sign him at a discounted rate.
The market for Oswalt is further complicated by the possibility that the Nationals (John Lannan) or Rays (Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis) will trade a starter in the coming weeks or during spring training.
Oswalt and the Red Sox continue to have “mutual interest” in one another, according to one source with knowledge of the dialogue. The Red Sox have an ongoing need for a starting pitcher, and one option (Edwin Jackson) came off the board when he signed with the Washington Nationals several days ago. The Boston rotation includes Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz and open competitions for the final two spots.
Oswalt had a positive experience in Philadelphia, where he went 16-11 with a 2.96 ERA in 221 2/3 innings after arriving in a trade midway through the 2010 season. Oswalt remains interested in returning to the Phillies, sources say. But they haven’t been aggressive in looking for rotation help this off-season, given the formidable – and expensive – cast of starters they currently possess.
The Reds, meanwhile, have spoken with Oswalt’s representatives recently and probably would need to move payroll and stretch their budget in order to afford him, a source said. The Cincinnati rotation currently consists of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, and Homer Bailey or Aroldis Chapman. The signing of Oswalt would signal that the Reds are going all-in to win the division now, before the potential departures of Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips via free agency over the next couple years.
-- Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal