The latest Roy Oswalt patter, in case you don't read the comments or Joe Strauss's Twitter—the St. Louis Cardinals did bid on Oswalt, at $5 million or so, but are likely, terribly, to be outbid by one McClellan Unit. That's the default storyline, and it's a powerful one—the Cardinals have spent $4 million on, in Kyle McClellan and Skip Schumaker, replaceable players with nice reputations in the clubhouse.
Oswalt would be nice—and unless the $5 million the Cardinals could offer was already contingent on trading Jake Westbrook, I don't think McClellan and Schumaker are really keeping them from making the move if they want to. But one thing is unequivocally true: The McClellan and Schumaker signings have kept the Cardinals from signing weirder, more interesting players for the end of their bullpen and bench. Such as:
Dan Wheeler: The Indians signed Dan Wheeler to a minor league contract Thursday. You may remember Wheeler as one of a million tough relievers the Houston Astros churned out in the course of moving from Billy Wagner to Octavio Dotel to Brad Lidge. He is also the effective reliever least likely to ever be named a closer, thanks to the 46 home runs he's allowed in his last 300 innings.
Wheeler is a fascinating ROOGY, in that he's likely to get tagged for a home run no matter who he's pitching to—last year righties hit .227/.238/.412, and lefties .278/.333/.431.
Kyle McClellan is pretty interesting himself—he's got a massive reverse platoon split in his career, a .211 average against lefties and a .270 average against righties. But everybody else's replacement-level players are always more interesting than yours.
Jason Isringhausen: Jason Isringhausen wants to pitch again! And the New York Mets have no desire to sign him! Jason Isringhausen!
Isringhausen's 300-save comeback wasn't an unalloyed success—he struck out about a batter an inning, but his late period control problems were still there and he allowed a few too many home runs. But he seems worth an NRI somewhere, and the Cardinals have built up their bullpen in such a way that their replacement level spots won't be patrolled by NRI types.
A million outfielders, all available on the cheap. The weirdest thing about the Cardinals' decision to sign Schumaker and McClellan—to give them their arbitration-mandated raises—is that this class of player, the iffy veteran bench guy at full price, has become glutted in the market. Cody Ross, a league-average hitter who plays a better outfield and bats the right way relative to Jon Jay, took $3 million for a year with the Red Sox.
Still around and able to play the Skip Schumaker part: Kosuke Fukudome, for one thing. On the no-more-effective but more fun front, J.D. Drew (J.D. Drew!) and Rick Ankiel are both available.
If it turns out the Cardinals could have signed Roy Oswalt, if only they decided on Adron Chambers and Brandon Dickson instead of Schumaker and McClellan, it'll be a shame. But I enjoy watching new spare parts arrive in Spring Training in the best shape of their lives nearly as much as I would Roy Oswalt working twice as fast as Edwin Jackson did.