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cardinals close to signing roy oswalt, maybe

late last night, numerous rumors flew about the cardinals signing or being on the verge of signing roy oswalt. despite all his health question marks, he'd be a great addition to our rotation. and at the prices being discussed (presumably somewhere between oswalt's rumored aim for an $8m contract and the cardinals' earlier reported $5m offer) oswalt could get away with starting only 10-15 starts to be worth his contract. if he stays at all healthy, he's a great pickup.

here's what ZIPS thinks of the guys on our potential 5th starting pitcher list:

roy oswalt (age 34): 108 ERA+, 154.0 ip

edwin jackson (age 28): 101 ERA+, 198.7 IP

lance lynn (age 25): 93 ERA+, 126.3 IP

jake westbrook (age 34): 83 ERA+, 127.3 IP

this will cause some consternation on the field, assuming - and this is by no means a given - that wainwright, carpenter, lohse, westbrook, garcia, and oswalt all finish spring training healthy.

in that event, i would expect us to start the season with westbrook in the bullpen, as being noticeably the worst option among starters. other options suggested include carrying 6 starters, releasing westbrook, or seeking his permission for a trade.

carrying westbrook in the bullpen would almost certainly mean leaving lynn in memphis as the sixth starter. however, if we're going to have lynn to call up as a starter, carrying westbrook seems awfully redundant. he's probably not a very good addition to a pretty stacked bullpen. and he's not very compelling as a sixth starter because a) he's not likely as good as lynn and b) he can't be kept ready at memphis. stretching him out to start in the majors could be an ugly, cumbersome process. unless there's a protracted need for a seventh starter due to injury, he doesn't seem to make much sense on the team.

one complicating factor is the presence of kyle mcclellan. carrying both in the bullpen would leave two expensive, not very good pitchers on the squad. trading kyle mcclellan might lead to a measure of salary relief for the club, as well as leaving westbrook as the only subpar reliever in the bullpen. one thing to watch is to see whether the fallout of an oswalt signing might be a trade for mcclellan, clearing bullpen space and salary.

i don't like the idea of just releasing westbrook. even if he's not much more than replacement value, he could have substantial trade value by the deadline to a team needing an innings eater. as unpleasant as it might be to carry westbrook in the bullpen while, say, sanchez pitches in memphis, it might be worth doing through june.

and even with the somewhat dicey reliability of the rotation - none of carpenter, wainwright, or oswalt seem like sure 30-game starters - i'm reluctant to put the 6-man rotation into effect, unless one or more other starters look shaky or not at full strength in spring training. a 6-man rotation would mostly replace starts by comparable pitchers with oswalt starts, and leave westbrook still posting a lot of replacement value starts.