For the majority of the offseason, the Red Sox have eyed both hurlers, hoping to snag one of them to bolster a depleted rotation. The pursuit continued this week, when the team reportedly offered each a one-year, $5 million contract, but ESPN reports Oswalt could be headed to St. Louis.
Ultimately, despite Oswalt’s glowing résumé, Jackson fits Boston’s needs better.
Jackson is six years younger than Oswalt, throws much harder and has remained durable over the course of his career.
During the past four seasons, Jackson totaled at least 183 1/3 innings of work. As he shuffled through five uniforms in that span — Rays, Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox and Cardinals — he was a model of consistency.
His win-to-loss ratio won’t completely validate the argument — he went 49-41 over that period. But with the exception of a subpar stint in Arizona, Jackson maintained a sub-3.70 ERA for his next three teams.
It’s a dose of stability the Red Sox could benefit from in the back end of the rotation. That same stability isn’t guaranteed with Oswalt.
Dating to his days in Houston, the right-hander has battled lower back pain. The chronic issues returned in 2011 and limited Oswalt to a mere 23 starts. Injections kept him afloat for a chunk of those 23 appearances.
Although Oswalts insists he’s healthy — and opted for a one-year deal to prove it — no one knows for sure. After injuries decimated the Red Sox’s pitching staff in 2011, it’s not worth the gamble for general manager Ben Cherington to settle on an old, injury-prone pitcher.
It’s also unknown whether Oswalt can seamlessly transition to the American League, especially the AL East. After spending all 11 seasons in the National League, the move would be unchartered territory for the 36-year-old.
Not for Jackson. While he took his lumps early in Tampa Bay, he rebounded in 2008 and collected 14 wins to contribute to the Rays’ surge to the 2008 World Series.
That’s why his experience and youth could be valuable for the Red Sox in the short and long term.
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