Three-time All-Star right-handed pitcher Roy Oswalt spent the first nine and a half seasons of his career as a dominant force for the Astros.
Now, the organization that selected him out of Holmes CC in the 23rd round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft reportedly wants him back.
Mike Silverman of the Boston Herald tweeted Friday night that the Astros, Red Sox and Cardinals remain in the mix to sign him.
However, Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio reported that Oswalt and the Cardinals are close to agreeing to terms on a deal.
An MLB source told modenook.com Friday that Oswalt plans to make his final decision over the next day or two, and that he’s leaning toward a one-year deal worth close to $5 million with St. Louis.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com recently tweeted that Boston has offered Oswalt a contract, but was unsure of the pitcher’s interest level.
The Rangers and Oswalt have also reportedly expressed a mutual interest.
Peter Gammons of MLB Network reported that Oswalt would like to play for the Rangers and well-respected pitching coach Mike Maddux.
With the Rangers already featuring a full starting rotation for 2012, the chances continue to decrease of him landing with Texas.
Plus, multiple reports indicate that Oswalt has rejected a one-year, $10 million contract offer from the Tigers, mainly due to the veteran’s desire to play as close as possible to his home in Mississippi.
Ultimately, Oswalt found himself with plenty of options this offseason, especially since he’s willing to sign a one-year deal.
Oswalt, 34, went 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA over 139 innings in 23 starts for the Phillies during an injury-plagued 2011 regular season.
The veteran had two stints on the DL with back issues.
He was acquired by Philadelphia via trade from the Astros on July 29, 2010 and posted a 7-1 record with a 1.74 ERA over 13 games (12 starts) down the stretch for Charlie Manuel’s squad.
Oswalt joined Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels in what was labeled a “dream team” starting rotation for the Phillies in 2011.
Although the Phillies finished with the best record (102-60) in Major League Baseball, they were eliminated in the NLDS by St. Louis.
Philadelphia declined their part of Oswalt’s $16 million mutual option for 2012 and paid him a $2 million buyout, making him a free agent.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. stated the ballclub would remain in contact with Oswalt about the possibility of re-signing him.
The Phillies haven’t shown much interest in Oswalt.
Despite Oswalt being close to a deal with the Cardinals, the biggest surprise revolves around the Astros’ interest in his services.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told modenook.com this offseason that he didn’t anticipate the club being active on the market.
New owner Jim Crane has echoed the same thoughts, but at the same time, recently stated that Luhnow is controlling the club’s payroll.
“Jeff’s got the budget, and he’s on budget,” Crane said. “That can certainly change, if something else changes. I think he’s been focused on filling some of the holes we have. I think you can expect him to do more as the year progresses and to sign some more later on. He’s formulated that as he’s gone along. It’ll be good to get down to Spring Training and get an update on that from him.”
At this point, it’s hard to believe Oswalt turning down an offer from a contender in order to reunite with a rebuilding Astros squad.
Still, stranger things have happened.
Oswalt established himself as an Astros icon, as his 143 wins with Houston remain one shy of tying Joe Niekro for the most in club history.
Also, he ranks second in club history behind Nolan Ryan with 1,593 strikeouts, third all-time in innings pitched (1,932 1/3) and third behind Larry Dierker and Niekro in games started (303).
He was also the 2005 NLCS MVP for Houston.
If Oswalt elects to return to the Astros, it would likely increase season-ticket sales and generate additional walk-up interest for home games.
That’s something Houston desperately needs after finishing the 2011 campaign with the worst record (56-106) in Major League Baseball.
By remaining in the mix for Oswalt, it’s a smart move on the part of the Astros’ front office, considering the worst he can say is “no.”
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