Good morning, Nats fans!
Last Friday, I posted a list of potential Free Agent Targets for the Nats, what I think it takes to sign them, and how I think they would fit. Since then, there have been multiple reports by specific reporters and websites that the Nats are going to make a
“Major Push” for one specific Pitcher. That pitcher? Roy Oswalt. Like I said last week, he’s 34, coming off a back injury riddled 2011, and his $16M option was declined by the Philadelphia Phillies. Another thing I neglected to mention: with the emergence of Vance Worley,and the rumors that the Phillies are also on the verge of signing Ryan Madson to a 4 yr/$44M deal, I think it is highly unlikely he has a “P” on his cap next year. Mike Rizzo mentioned in his Chien-Ming Wang conference call that he wanted a guy who is “able to pitch 200 innings many, many times in your career” (courtesy of Ben Goessling of MASNsports.com, link). Goessling mentions how well that describes Mark Buerhle, as Rizzo also stated, in the same post, “it’s not about having the best stuff.” It seems, though, that if the Nats were to order their “veteran starter” targets (i’m excluding CJ Wilson because he’s only been a Starter for 2 full years.), it would probably be Oswalt #1 and Buerhle #2.
I say this because Buerhle is basically 2 years younger, and could command as many as 3 guaranteed years (and, based on his track record, who could blame him?). Buehrle has never been injured, never pitched less than 200 Innings in a year, and has posted single digit wins once. In a contract meeting, needless to say, the Nats wouldn’t really have much leverage, Buerhle’s track record speaks for itself. Oswalt is much different, however, and here’s why. Oswalt missed 10 starts in 2011 because of back issues, has had multiple sub-200 inning seasons, and is 34. If I’m Mike Rizzo, I would give Oswalt 2 guaranteed years, and maybe a club option. You could install incentives into the deal for making 30 starts, pitching over 200 innings, winning 15 games, etc. Oswalt also does not have an protests to signing in D.C. According to Adam Kilgore, in his post today in Nationals journal, Link here, takes us back to 2010, where he states, “In 2010, when he pitched for the Astros, Oswalt told the Post he would waive a no-trade clause to accept a deal to Washington.” With that said, while we do know Buerhle is ‘playing the field,’ we do NOT specifically know how likely it is he signs elsewhere. With Ozzie Guillen in Florida now, there’s a chance that he signs there because of the comfort level with his skipper of 6 years, and one where we won a World Series in 2005. Buerhle, however, is 24-6 with a 3.34 ERA vs the NL, which makes him the winningest Interleague Pitcher, period. Being an 11 year resident of the American League, Buehrle could see the NL as a new challenge for an already pretty successful career. He is a Missouri native, but it does not look as though there is a spot on his hometown St. Louis Cardinals. He’s already met with the Marlins as well, so we’ll have to see where that meeting goes.
Let me reiterate: I think Buehrle is the better option, because of his age, his consistency, and his durability. However, I do believe that Oswalt is not a bad option, and would probably be easier to sign. Sure, he’s not much older than Buehrle, and he does throw harder, has won 20 games twice, and has vocalized his lack of protest to signing in D.C., and he could probably come more at the Nats price than Roy Oswalt’s. There also seems to be much less chatter on who is interested in Oswalt than who is interested in Buehrle, who has been linked to the Nats, Marlins, Yankees, and White Sox. I have heard that the Yankees may be interested, but I have also heard Brian Cashman may re-sign Freddie Garcia and “call it an offseason,” most likely because of their abundance of young pitchers. I think the Yankees are more likely to make some trades, don’t ask me why, but I do.
Needless to say, once this CBA thing with is finished, the offseason will probably heat up, although it could heat up much sooner than one would think.