There is a new trend developing in the Major League Baseball free agent market, and it’s nauseating. Players, namely free agent Roy Oswalt, are attempting to game the major league free agent system in an effort to pitch less, prolong their career, while shopping their talent to select contenders. Call it the new “short season.”
Oswalt, 34, made 23 starts for the Phillies in 2011, recorded a 9-10 record (3.69 ERA) and started Game 4 for the Phillies in the playoffs. When the Phillies declined his option after the season, Oswalt began job hunting. In January, the Tigers offered Oswalt a one-year contract worth $10 million. He turned down the offer. Truth is, he was in no rush to sign a deal and get to spring training. No, sir. Why should he? Most 30-something major league pitchers would just as well skip spring training, especially Oswalt who landed on the disabled list with back problems, once in May and again in June.
Oswalt’s agent telling teams Roy worked out for the Dodgers Friday, and L.A. is looking for a starter and a mid-lineup bat
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) May 27, 2012
Oswalt is interested in Boston, but no too interested; he’d rather pitch for St. Louis or Texas. Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe wrote, as of last week, the Red Sox liked what they saw, but the ball is still in Oswalt’s court.
What’s the rush? What pitcher wouldn’t want to ramp up in June, pitching the second half of the season for a pennant contender?
There is certainly a market for starting pitching. Post season contenders will gladly lease a starting pitcher with a fresh arm for the final three months of the regular season. Sounds like a pretty cushy gig.
Roger Clemens did it twice late in his career. In 2006, Clemens signed with the Astros in late May and started 19 games (7-6, 2.30 ERA). One year later, Clemens re-signed with the Yankees in early May, making 18 starts and recording a 6-6 record.
Pedro Martinez used the “short season” strategy in 2009 signing with the Phillies in July. He went on to start nine regular season games, recording a 5-1 record and starting three post-season games.
Now Oswalt is trying to cash in on the “short season” concept, but … “He’s not ready to go,” said Rangers GM Jon Daniels. “He hasn’t thrown to hitters yet. It’ll definitely take him some time. I don’t know how much time, but he’s not an immediate option.”
He hasn’t thrown? Why is a veteran pitcher, who is reportedly in good health, not “ready to go?” How can that be? Oswalt has been sitting around since January and instead of working out, he waited.
Oswalt knew in January, after he turned down the Tigers, that he had no intention pitching until mid-season. That’s what makes the “short season” blueprint ridiculous and, honestly, unfair to other veterans who are pitchers their hearts out from March to October. Should a pitcher with Oswalt’s track record be allowed to simply sit back, wait for the market to develop, then sign with a team who fought through the first three months of the season to stay in contention? It’s not like Oswalt could find an interested team last winter. Smells like a selfish proposition to me.
Stop. I’ve heard the argument: Oswalt is a free agent. He has the right to negotiate any time with any team he wants too. Yes he does, but what if more veteran pitchers begin employing the “short season” strategy? We could have a laundry list of veteran players skipping spring training, resting, relaxing, waiting and watching as contenders and pretenders are determined, teams in contention get desperate for a fresh, successful arm(s), the free agent market could renew and reset itself in June and July. It would be the birth of the “short season” for veteran pitchers looking to extend their career, not to mention the potential of playing for a World Series, by cherry-picking where and when you play.
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