Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com that the Mets are interested in the free-agent right-hander, who appeared in 17 games for the Texas Rangers last year, and that even though they have signed Shaun Marcum, the door is not closed to bringing in another starter. Given the fact that the Mets were the very last team to sign a major league free agent this year, closing the deal only yesterday, and that suddenly talk of interest in two high profile free agents (Michael Bourn and now Oswalt) arises, one has to wonder if these expressions of interest are merely a smokescreen to convince skeptical fans that the team is not punting the 2013 season, as some have suggested. After all, Oswalt's agent says he knows of no interest in Oswalt by the Mets at this time. We can't know for sure, however, so let's give them the benefit of the doubt and consider the Mets interest in The Wizard of Os genuine.
The first question to ask is do the Mets need to acquire another starter now? With the 2013 rotation set with Santana, Marcum, Niese, Gee and Harvey, with Wheeler waiting in the wings for a mid-season call-up, and with Mejia, Hefner, McHugh and possibly Schwinden available either in Citifield's bull pen or Las Vegas' rotation, how much depth do we need? It is said, of course, that you can never have enough pitching, but is another starter where the Mets should deploy their rather meager resources? Well, perhaps if the starter in question were an apparent upgrade over the aforementioned Mejia, Hefner, McHugh and Schwinden, it wouldn't be such a bad idea. So, let's go to the next question.
Would signing Oswalt be a good idea? After a workhorse career, where he could always be counted upon for 200+ innings, he has battled injuries over the last few years. And at age 35 he just might be losing his touch. Posting a career worst WHIP of 1.525 and ERA of 5.80 last year, he was eminently hittable, despite showing his usual impeccable command. Moreover, his interest in returning to the mound this year seems to be tepid, at best. Off hand I'd have to say signing Oswalt looks like a bad idea. But wait! Looking a bit deeper, Oswalt's starter/reliever splits last year show a significant disparity. In 9 starts, averaging barely over 5 innings per start, his stat line was ERA = 6.36, WHIP = 1.693, with 7.9 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. As a reliever, however, in 8 games, (12.1 innings) ERA = 3.65, WHIP 0.892, with 14.6 K/9 and 0.73 BB/9. Admittedly a small sample, but perhaps meaningful to our front office. We do need a better bull pen this year. If Oswalt would sign a reasonable contract and accept a role in the bull pen to start the season, he could be a valuable addition.
There are those who might worry that if Oswalt cracks the rotation and pitched well, he might delay Wheeler's debut. I wouldn't be too concerned about that. If Wheeler meets expectations in Las Vegas, we will see him in Citifield some time this summer. And his arrival could just coincide with Oswalt's departure, going to a contender in need of pitching to bolster their post season push. Who knows, a successful Oswalt might bring back another Wheeler. Shades of Carlos Beltran.