The St. Louis Cardinals don’t have a deal in place to sign free-agent starter Roy Oswalt — yet — but they are working diligently to create the necessary payroll flexibility, major-league sources said Sunday.
Oswalt likely would jump at an offer of one year and $10 million from the Cardinals, according to a source familiar with his thinking. In recent days, the team has discussed proposals in the range of $7 million. That is why the Cardinals are attempting to move relief pitcher Kyle McClellan and his $2.5 million salary.
St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak is said to be concerned with alleviating McClellan’s payroll obligation, rather than obtaining top-end talent in return. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Saturday that the Cardinals offered Oswalt about $5 million earlier this month.
Oswalt, 34, would prefer to pitch for the Cardinals or Texas Rangers, one source said. Oswalt plans to meet with the Rangers on Monday and could make his final decision by the middle of the week, sources say.
The Rangers have yet to offer Oswalt a contract, according to a source. And even if they elect not to do so at all, the Rangers could exert a shadowy influence over the team that defeated them in last autumn’s World Series.
Here’s how: The Baltimore Orioles, sources say, are interested in acquiring McClellan from the Cardinals. The Orioles also have discussed the possibility of acquiring Koji Uehara — like McClellan, a right-handed reliever — from the Rangers. It seems unlikely that Baltimore could come away with both McClellan and Uehara.
So, consider the intriguing either/or scenario: If the Rangers deal Uehara to the Orioles, they can remove a McClellan suitor and perhaps forestall (at least temporarily) the Cardinals’ efforts to clear payroll for Oswalt.
Uehara has a no-trade clause that allows him to block moves to six teams. He lives in Baltimore, and sources say he would welcome a return to the Orioles, for whom he pitched from 2009 until last July.
The Cardinals already boast a formidable rotation. The addition of Oswalt would give them one of the best in baseball: Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Oswalt, and Jake Westbrook or Kyle Lohse.
Lohse started one game in each postseason round last year. Westbrook earned the win in relief during the Cardinals’ epic Game 6 win over the Rangers in the World Series.