Phillies Set Oswalt Free, Should The Nationals Make A Push?

It’s no secret that the Philadelphia Phillies’ payroll has ballooned in recent years. It takes veterans to win multiple division titles in Major League baseball, and it takes money to both acquire those veterans and keep them happy. Philadelphia, though, made the move to shed some of that salary today when they (somewhat) surprisingly opted not to pick up the options on starter Roy Oswalt and former closer Brad Lidge, and instead bought out their contracts.

Had the club chose to keep the former All-Star’s with their current contracts they would have had to pay a combined $28.5 million in salary, but the buyouts cost them just $3.5 million. It’s a smart move for Philadelphia who will likely attempt to re-sign both hurlers for a great discount, but it does cost them some security.

Under their current deals the Phillies knew for certain that they had Lidge and Oswalt under control for 2012. Now things aren’t so clear and other team’s, like the Washington Nationals, have the opportunity to play spoiler to a team in their own division. While the two veterans are likely comfortable in Philadelphia and view it as a place where they can try to win a World Series, the devastating injury to Ryan Howard and the growing inconsistency of Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley have to make them wonder, could Washington be a better fit?

To me, it seems Roy Oswalt would be a natural fit for Washington. The Nats have made it no secret that they want to add top-of-the-line veteran starters to bolster their young and talented rotation. And while Oswalt is nearing the end of his a dominant career, he has proven that he still has some gas in the tank.

Last season Oswalt went 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA for Philadelphia while striking out 93 in 139 innings pitched. It was an up-and-down year for the Missouri native who had the briefly leave the team when his hometown was struck by a massive tornado. Oswalt battled off-the-field issues and a few minor injury, but it may very well be the case that with those distractions behind him he may now be ready to focus on finishing his career on the right note.

He could also theoretically be a great influence on the Nats young starters. He is a guy who has been one of the better pitchers in the National league over the past decade, and has learned how to maintain a Cy Young caliber repertoire over the course of his career. He also is a “pitch to contact” type of hurler, which is an approach that Mike Rizzo has stated he very much appreciates.

In fact, his mold is very similar to Jordan Zimmermann’s. A slightly undersized right handed starter with great stuff. There’s no question that he could show Jay-Z a thing or two about the league.

If they were able to sign Oswalt, they potentially could have a rotation that looks like this:

  1. Stephen Strasburg
  2. Roy Oswalt
  3. Jordan Zimmermann
  4. John Lannan
  5. Brad Peacock/Tom Milone/ CM Wang 

That’s a playoff caliber rotation.