Originally posted on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 1/28/12

Rumors are flying around that free agent starting pitcher Roy Oswalt is close to choosing his 2012 team, and that the top suitor right now is the reigning World Champion St Louis Cardinals, who are ahead of the Tigers, Red Sox, and Astros in the race for Oswalt. But does the starter make sense for St Louis?

Honestly, it seems like Oswalt would be a better match for the Red Sox, who are spending their offseason signing retreads to minor league deals and hoping one catches on (the latest in the bunch? Former Met John Maine. Yeah). Oswalt has a desire to be close to his home in Mississippi, which is why Detroit has fallen back in the running (they apparently offered him a one year, $10 million deal that he shot down. I wonder if that's still on the table in the aftermath of the Prince Fielder signing). I don't see why Oswalt would be considering Boston, which is pretty damn far from Mississippi, if that's a major concern. But I think Boston would be the best fit overall, and could probably offer him more than the $5 million that St Louis is reportedly offering.

Anyway, back to his fit with the Cardinals. St Louis already has a five man rotation set for 2012 (and that excludes free agent Edwin Jackson), but there are plenty of caveats with their staff. Ace Adam Wainwright missed all of last season with Tommy John surgery, and his innings will probably be limited after not throwing a pitch in 2011. Fifth starter Jake Westbrook had an ERA of 4.66 (with peripherals putting his FIP above 4.00 as well), and struck out a pathetic 5.11 batters per nine innings. Jaime Garcia increased his innings by 30 from 2010 to 2011 (though he stayed within the recommended 20% rise), and durability could be a question for him. There's nothing to worry about with Chris Carpenter or Kyle Lohse, both of whom had great seasons.

Signing Oswalt would really mean one thing for the Cardinals: insurance. Just in case Wainwright wasn't ready for Opening Day, just in case Garcia's performance dropped off after the innings increase, they'd have a solid veteran in the rotation ready to plug a hole. Now admittedly, Oswalt isn't the same pitcher he once was, throwing just 139 innings last season. But in those 139 innings, he did manage to accrue 2.5 fWAR, and over 200 innings, that season would be worth in the neighborhood of 3.5 fWAR, which would have been third on St Louis's staff last season behind Carpenter and Garcia. Now, imagine those two, plus a healthy Oswalt and a healthy Wainwright. It absolutely wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for those four to put up 17 or so fWAR, with Lohse possibly putting the total to 20. That is, if everyone is healthy.

The Cardinals already have one of the best rotations in the league, even with Westbrook in it. Adding Oswalt would simply make them elite. I'd put Philadelphia and San Francisco above them, but that's probably it for the NL. If Oswalt does sign with the Cardinals, they really will have done a fantastic job at remaking their team after losing Albert Pujols and Edwin Jackson to free agency.

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This article first appeared on The Outside Corner and was syndicated with permission.

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