First, from Oswalt's perspective: He's an intense competitor who has started 30+ games every season since 2003. Health has not typically been an issue for him. Sure, he's 33 years old and has hinted at retirement, but could his Mississippi recliner really be all that more cushy than collecting huge sacks of money while facing off against guys like Dillon Gee, Mike Minor, Ross Detwiler, and Clay Hensley (other NL East #4s.) Where else can he make $16M and hold down the limited expectations of a 4th starter? Houston, Texas, Atlanta, St. Louis, etc would all expect him to be a top of the rotation guy in 2012. And based on his performance this year, his contract offers aren't likely to approach $16M anyway. He's made $75M in his career already, sure, but retiring on a sour note at the age of 33 when he can still hit 95 on the gun? I don't think Oswalt is ready to go out on that note.
But more importantly, from a Phillies perspective: In 2012, $16M really isn't an outrageous salary for a starting pitcher with the talent of a Roy Oswalt. Pending a Cole Hamels extension, chances are, by spring training 2012 he'd be the 4th highest paid starter on his own team. Around the rest of the league, here's a look at who else is set to make approximately $16M+ next season:
- Tim Lincecum - Arbitration Eligible, but made $14M in 2011
- Chris Carpenter - was set to make $15M, but just took extension that reduces 2012 salary
- Derek Lowe - $15M
- Matt Cain, SF - $15.33M
- John Lackey - $15.95M
- Roy Oswalt - $16M
- AJ Burnett - $16.5M
- Josh Beckett - $17M
- Jake Peavy - $17M
- Barry Zito - $19M
- Carlos Zambrano - $19M
- Felix Hernandez - $19.2M
- Justin Verlander - $20M
- Roy Halladay - $20M
- Cliff Lee - $21.5M
- Johan Santana - $24M
- CC Sabathia - $24M
Consider the other options:
- Joe Blanton is under contract for $8M for 2012. Whether they keep Oswalt or not, Blanton is likely to get a shot at the rotation next season.
- Vance Worley - will get his shot in the rotation as well, but could just as quickly be the next JA Happ.
- Kyle Kendrick - is showing that his best value is as a super utility pitcher capable of making a spot start or long relief in the pen.
- Prospects - Trevor May won the Paul Owens award for best pitcher in the Phils system this year, but he's still at least another year out in development. Justin DeFratus moved quickly up to AAA, but proceeded to struggle thereafter.
- Jamie Moyer - the guy has 8 mouths to feed! You know he's going to be looking for a paycheck!