With Oswalt Heading to the Cardinals, Should the Red Sox Trade for Jake Westbrook?

Roy Oswalt appears headed for St. Louis in 2012, joining the defending World Series champion Cardinals. The Red Sox, still in need of help for their starting rotation, were hoping to land Oswalt and had even traded Marco Scutaro away to make room under the luxury tax to sign the right hander.

In the end. Oswalt appears headed back to the NL Central where he spent most of his career. The Cardinals don't currently have room in their rotation for Oswalt and will likely have to move either Kyle Lohse of Jake Westbrook, unless one of them is willing to move to the bullpen (although that's a bit crowded at the moment).

Lohse is set to make a little over $12M this year and will be a free agent in 2013. Westbrook is under contract for $8.5M next year and his contract has an $8.5M mutual option for 2013 ($1M buyout if team declines the option). Over the past few seasons, Lohse has been the more valuable pitcher, racking up more fWAR per start compared to Westbrook. And even with a shortened season, Oswalt put up 1.4 more fWAR than Westbrook in 2011.

Given the modest buyout, my guess is that Westbrook becomes the more likely trade candidate here. He's a ground all pitcher that, while a tad overpriced for a 1 win starter (assuming 2012 is similar to 2011), will get you around 180+ innings each year.

So who might be interested? How about the Red Sox?

While the market has slimmed down for his services, Edwin Jackson is still likely to cost the same or more than Roy Oswalt given his age and the fact that he'll want more than a one-year deal. The Red Sox have approached Jackson's agent about the possibility of a one-year deal, but that agent's name is Scott Boras. And while the market may have slimmed for Jackson, you can bet Boras will use the Sox need for a starter to squeeze whatever he can from the front office.

Westbrook is a ground ball pitcher (2.35 GB/FB) who, when you look at various ERA estimators, hasn't performed that different from Jackson. His tERA over the past three years (well, two for Westbrook) is better than Jackson's (4.43 v. 4.36) and his SIERA was higher, but only by .08. Given the hitter-friendly confines of Fenway, a back of the rotation ground ball starter could be a good fit, especially since the financial investment would be low and the $1M buy out next year allows the Red Sox the financial and roster flexibility they were seeking with Oswalt.

Of course, the logic of such a deal would depend on what the Cardinals would ask for in return. The Red Sox have talked to the White Sox about a deal for Gavin Floyd. Trading higher-ceiling prospects for an established, 29 year-old starter makes sense, but obviously wouldn't for a guy like Westbrook. Given that the Cardinals have to either trade or release Westbrook to make room for Oswalt, the Red Sox might have enough leverage to get an acceptable deal for the right hander.

Whether Westbrook would be that much better than one of the reliever-converts or veteran pitchers who are currently competing for a spot is unclear. But with Westbrook you pretty much know what you are getting--a ground-ball innings eater with a low price tag and even lower buy out for 2013.

Just a thought.

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