Roy Oswalt Could Make Rangers Better, But He Doesn’t Make Texas a Lock for World Series

Roy Oswalt Could Make Rangers Better, But He Doesn't Make Texas a Lock for World SeriesThe Texas Rangers signed Roy Oswalt on Tuesday, and once he passes his physical, everything will become official.

He'll get some minor league rehab work in, and he'll eventually join the Rangers, with both sides hoping the veteran right-hander can bolster the Texas pitching staff. He'll almost certainly do that, but it may be a little much to think that Oswalt will put the Rangers over the top.

The Rangers are already a darn good baseball team, and there are plenty who believe they're the American League favorites. If that's the case, signing Oswalt probably can't hurt. However, there are a couple of reasons to believe that Oswalt may not work out in Arlington.

The 34-year-old is obviously coming off a pretty good layoff. It's nothing like Andy Pettitte is battling in his return to the Yankees, but there must be something said for not taking a big league mound since the fall. Will the extended rest help Oswalt? It may, but it may also lead to some rust. 

The Rangers will also have to keep a close eye on Oswalt's back. Problems with his back were the main reason for Oswalt's extended offseason, and if those start flaring up again, it could be a long summer for the righty. Don't sleep on the impact back problems can have on a pitcher. The back is involved in every sort of movement a pitcher makes, and if it's nagging at all, it will make things much more difficult.

What's also kind of peculiar is the fact that Oswalt signed with the Rangers, a team in the American League. After spending his entire career with the Astros and Phillies, this will be the first time Oswalt has dipped his toe in AL waters. All we heard about the pursuit of Oswalt was that he was likely to sign with an NL team, for a three- or four-month audition with the hopes of getting a longer contract over the offseason. 

Obviously something changed somewhere along the line. Maybe Oswalt's priorities changed. Maybe the reports were false. Maybe he just really, really does like Nolan Ryan. Whatever the reason for the change, Oswalt now has to prove himself in the American League for the first time. One of the only positives about interleague play is that we can at least call upon a small sample size to try and project a player's potential level of success when they change leagues. 

For Oswalt, admittedly, the numbers look at least pretty decent. Oswalt has actually pitched about a season's worth of interleague games, with 30 career starts against Junior Circuit teams. He's got an 11-11 record which is  "blah" at best, but he does have a 3.70 ERA which is a half-run higher than his career average. His 1.344 WHIP in interleague play is also higher than his career total (1.194), but it's not astronomically higher. 

Still, we've seen it many times before with pitchers struggling to make the move from the NL to the AL. It won't hurt, however, that getting to pitch against teams like Oakland and Seattle inside of the AL West isn't the worst thing in the world. 

The good news for the Rangers — aside from signing a three-time All-Star who is 66 games over .500 for his career — is that Oswalt isn't a costly investment. He's reportedly set to make $8 million, a number that will be prorated. It's not a figure that will make or break a franchise.

But you can't help wonder how much help Oswalt can really provide. When you look at the AL standings, it's clear that the Rangers are running away with things, but the league is still pretty wide open. The Angels are finally playing like everyone expected they would with eight straight wins, and the AL East is still a dynamic division that will be a force to be reckoned with all summer and into the fall. 

The Rangers could still very well be back in their third World Series in as many years this October, but it may be expecting a little too much to think that Roy Oswalt will be one of the biggest reasons they are.

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