With Prince Fielder now off the market, the one player the Rangers have been linked to who is still out there is Roy Oswalt. Oswalt has expressed an interest in coming to Texas, Nolan Ryan has connections with Oswalt dating back to when Oswalt was a minor leaguer, and it has been suggested that the Rangers would prioritize Oswalt if they couldn't get Fielder.
With Oswalt in the fold, Matt Harrison would end up joining Alexi Ogando in moving to the bullpen after a full year of starting in 2012.
Here's what I don't get about this, though...
How would replacing Harrison with Oswalt make the Rangers better?
Let's just look at what they did last season:
A 3.69 ERA and a 105 ERA+ for Oswalt, in a year where he missed significant time with injury, compared to a 3.39 ERA and a 131 ERA+ for Harrison.
And if you want to go defense-independent with your stats, Oswalt had a 3.44 FIP and a 3.95 xFIP for an fWAR of 2.5. Harrison had a 3.52 FIP and a 3.85 xFIP for an fWAR of 4.2.
Harrison pitched better than Oswalt, in the tougher league and in the league with a DH.
And we want to replace Harrison with Oswalt?
Granted, 2011 was Harrison's best season, by far, and 2011 was Oswalt's worst season. It isn't unreasonable to expect Harrison to regress and Oswalt to improve.
Of course, there's the age issue to factor in...Harrison is 26, while Oswalt is 34. Harrison is entering what one would expect to be his best years, while Oswalt is at an age where you would expect him to decline, particularly given the back issues that had him talking retirement at one point last season.
ZiPS isn't optimistic about a big Oswalt rebound in 2012, projecting him (as a Phillie) to put up a 108 ERA+ in 154 innings. The ZiPS projections for the Rangers aren't out at this point, but I'd be willing to wager that it projects Harrison to at least match those numbers.
So what's the appeal of this move for the Rangers? It seems to me that, if they are really serious about adding Oswalt and having him replace Harrison in the rotation, it is either because 1) they believe 2011 was a fluke year for Harrison, or 2) they see what Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and other good pitchers who are under team control are fetching on the trade market, and think they can replace Harrison's production while adding minor league talent. 1 and 2 aren't mutually exclusive, of course, and Texas could see Harrison as being at his peak value and wanting to move him now before he crashed back to earth.
It just seems weird to me, though, that an organization that has preached the importance of building its pitching staff from within is apparently considering replacing one of its homegrown pitchers, who is coming off a breakout season, with a free agent veteran with injury problems coming off a down year.