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Texas, Ryan attracted Oswalt, but he should have stayed in the N.L.

Roy Oswalt's bizarre free agency will always be recalled for its length, and also its many twists and turns. He's an exceptional pitcher who seemed slightly indecisive at times.

The Tigers thought at one point, many months ago, that they were about to sign him to a $10-million, one-year deal. But he rejected that deal, and another one from the Boston Red Sox. And before he was done with his two free agencies (winter and spring), he rejected many more offers, as well.

He winds up going to the Texas Rangers for $5 million guaranteed (not prorated), Scott Miller of CBSSports.com first reported, and that is no small amount of money for a pitcher who very likely won't make it to a major-league mound until late June. It's twice as much money as his former Astros teammate Andy Pettitte got on what was initially a minor-league deal from the Yankees, and Pettitte's been pitching and thriving for a couple weeks now. But it was pretty clear from the start this wasn't all about the money for Oswalt.

Oswalt, a Mississippi native and resident, had obvious geographic pereferences, and Miller learned that three teams either offered more (or at least signalled they would do so) -- the Dodgers, Cardinals and Phillies. Oswalt was so intent on going there, he not only rebuffed better offers, but he is said to have discouraged the Red Sox or Orioles from bidding at all, because "there's no sense bidding when a team can only finish second.'' That was the right thing to do in those cases.

Oswalt had family considerations, and no one should fault him for that. School's about to be out, so he'll be able to travel around with his wife and kids now, as he hoped to do.

Oswalt also felt a kinship with Rangers president Nolan Ryan from Oswalt's days in Houston, when Oswalt was a minor-league player on Ryan, as owner of the club's Double-A Round Rock team became a big supporter of Oswalt's. The GM of one interested team said, "I felt all along we had an uphill battle due to that friendship. When there's a connection between people, it takes a lot more than dollars to break that.''

After all the changes in this tale, it's a nice story of a union between friends. But you still have to wonder whether this is the right call for Oswalt.

Sure, it's a fit in that Texas is now without Neftali Feliz to man a spot in thie rotation. But is it someplace he'll thrive?

Ryan and all the Texas people know pitching. But might he have been swayed to bid in part by friendship? Let's not forget Oswalt was something less than overwhelming last year in Philly, which treated him with extra care and allowed him to go back home to Mississippi to tend to personal business for weeks.

Oswalt has had a terrific career. But as one scout said, "He wasn't great last year.'' He was, in fact, 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA, and that was in the National League. He allowed 153 hits in 139 innings.

A switch, at age 34, to the American League, seems like a gamble at best. It's nice that he'll be near home and with his buddy Ryan, who understandably has a hold over a lot of pitchers.

After all these months, Oswalt made a call to go to a great team in a desired location run by a friend. But I have to wonder whether he would have been better off going back to the Phillies, who treated him great, or even the Dodgers or Cardinals. Los Angeles would have provided the extra advantage of a pitchers park in Dodger Stadium.

The location was important to Oswalt. But the new location in the American League may prove to be a risky spot for a talented pitcher on the downside.


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