Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City  |  Last updated 12/15/11
What's the point of writing an opinion piece if you don't take an optimistic guess once in awhile? Where's the fun in sticking to the obvious? Surely you want to pass along an occasional rumor that will make your buddies stop and stare, as though perhaps you've been smoking branches off the Christmas tree. Fair enough, then. Here's our "Whoa!" suggestion for the week: I think it's actually possible that the Royals could sign free-agent headliner Roy Oswalt. OK, so now you're scratching your head and recalling that Oswalt, who will turn 35 in August, reportedly wants a three-year deal in the 20 million range. The Royals would never go for something like that, you say. Amen. GM Dayton Moore fully intends to build a championship team through the farm system, and that's where he's looking for the Royals' long-term pitching. There will never be a repeat of the Gil Meche fiasco under the current regime at Kauffman Stadium. But we're going in a completely different direction here. For all the reasons that Moore would shy away from any kind of long-term, big-money commitment to Oswalt his age, his back problems (he hasn't pitched more than 139 innings in any of the past three seasons) and possibly his declining skills I suspect there's a chance no other team will come close to Oswalt's dream contract, either. Sure, there are always the Yankees and Red Sox both of whom need starting pitchers and can afford a high-risk failure, if it comes to that. In the past couple of days, Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com who has all sorts of knowledgeable baseball execs plugged into his iPhone has written that the Red Sox "remain interested" in Oswalt. Yankees GM Brian Cashman admitted a month ago that he'd contacted Oswalt's agent, Bob Garber, "as a matter of course." A note worth remembering on that one, however, is that Garber also represents C.J. Wilson, who was the most coveted pitcher in this year's free-agent class and Cashman certainly was part of the conversation prior to Wilson signing with the Angels. By the way, Morosi's story about the Red Sox still thinking about Oswalt also contained a paragraph that other clubs chatting with Garber about the 11-year veteran (159 wins, 3.21 ERA) included Washington, the Yankees and Kansas City. In case the long-shot scenario pans out, Jon Paul, remember that you're not the only one who thinks the Royals could be lurking around the edges of a deal for Oswalt. You ask: What's the logic here? Two things pop to mind immediately: It's quite possible that nobody is going to bite on a three-year contract for Oswalt, despite all his past success. That combination of age and spine problems makes guaranteeing the right-hander a significant sum of money less than a cinch. I know, baseball logic holds that SOMEBODY always comes up with a staggering contract and maybe one of the usual suspects, the teams awash in cash, will take the big gamble on Oswalt. But the point here is that, at least for the moment, nobody's hit the hook. The flip side of this involves the Royals themselves. Moore clearly believes he might be able to accelerate the club's rise to contention from, say, 2013 or beyond to this coming season if he can find enough quality pitching. If Moore and manager Ned Yost didn't believe that, the Royals wouldn't have traded Melky Cabrera for lefty Jonathan Sanchez and then signed former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton a pair of pitchers who both will be free agents after 2012. Working on the premise that Moore is cobbling together a pretty solid staff to take a shot right now while waiting for his own talent-rich system to produce pitching for seasons down the road you've got to think Moore would be willing to take another one-year gamble on Oswalt. Broxton got 4 million plus incentives, and the arbitration-eligible Sanchez is likely to sign for something in the range of 8 million so why wouldn't Oswalt be worth as much as Sanchez? Even with his tricky back, Oswalt is still a dominating pitcher. Last year was the worst of his career, but even as he wrapped up a two-year, 16 million deal with the Phillies, he wasn't exactly a punching bag 9-10 record, 3.69 ERA, 93 strikeouts, 33 walks and only 10 home runs allowed in 139 innings. No, that wasn't what the Phillies had hoped to get, but those numbers would have made him the ace on a Royals staff that got knocked around pretty consistently. There are scouts who believe Oswalt can be a big-time winner again, as long as he's handled correctly and not overworked. That wouldn't be a problem in Kansas City, where there are plenty of candidates with great arms banging on the door and aiming for the rotation. Guys like Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy could turn out to be overpowering big-league pitchers, but neither is a cinch in 2012 so a proven commodity like Oswalt makes terrific sense. Think about it: The Royals could be a legitimate playoff contender this year with even a semi-healthy Oswalt atop the rotation. Before we all get TOO excited, though, there are plenty of potential holes in my dream rumor. For one thing, the fact that Oswalt hasn't been snapped up already doesn't necessarily mean there's no interest. All the dominoes haven't fallen into place yet. We're getting closer, now that Wilson has signed with the Angels and Mark Buerhle turned up in Miami. The wild card is Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish. Scouts are pretty much unanimous that Darvish will be an instant winner in the U.S., and the process of placing him somewhere has awhile to run. Wednesday was the deadline for teams to bid their "posting fee" with MLB. Japan's Nippon Ham Fighters have until next Tuesday to consider the highest bid though they haven't been told the American team that's won the right to negotiate. After that, it's down to all parties agreeing on a huge exchange of money. It's almost a cinch Darvish will wind up with one of the mega-money clubs Texas (which lost Wilson), Washington, the Yankees, the Red Sox, etc. Once Darvish has found a home, the losers in that derby then may consider Oswalt. That's still only a "maybe," though. More potentially bad news for the Royals is that, even if no team will give Oswalt a multi-year deal given his health issues there still might be an attractive one-season contract offered, say, by the Yankees. Could the Royals both outbid a team like the Yanks or Red Sox and also convince Oswalt that they're a pennant contender like those perennial playoff participants? Might they sell Oswalt, who grew up in rural Mississippi, on the quality of life here? The guy seemed to be comfy in Houston, after all. Perhaps Royals reliever Louis Coleman a native of Slaughter, Mississippi could help with recruiting. There's always the clincher, letting Jeff Francoeur take the guy out hunting. It worked with Broxton. But yes, getting Oswalt excited about how much fun he could have leading a pennant drive in Kansas City might be a tough sell. Not impossible, though, not with the exciting young club the Royals already have in place. Hey, I said I'd toss out a wild possibility today, and you have to agree that a chance to add Roy Oswalt and his exploding fastball to the Royals' current rotation fits that bill. If it doesn't happen, please go back and read the disclaimer in the first few paragraphs. Meanwhile, let's liven up the off season. And this Oswalt deal still has a shot. I think. Steve Cameron can be reached at stevecameron1000@gmail.com.
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