ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak denied on Saturday that a deal is in the works with Roy Oswalt, as reports swirled that the club is close to a contract with the veteran free-agent right-hander.
Multiple reports have suggested that the club is at least seriously in the running for a pitcher who has been a longtime rival. MLB Network Radio reported Friday night that a deal was very close, and ESPNBoston.com reported that night that Oswalt has "elected to stay in the National League" and that he is "likely" to sign with the Cardinals "soon." Still, as of midday Saturday, no deal was completed.
Reached by email, Mozeliak wrote that reports were "not true," but did not elaborate. Another club official indicated that no transactions seemed to be imminent for the Cardinals.
Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reported on Saturday night that the Rangers plan to meet with Oswalt on Monday.
Oswalt, 34, has long been known to harbor a desire to pitch in St. Louis. As a divisional opponent for many years with the Houston Astros, he engaged in some classic battles with the Redbirds, and the club is one of the closest to his Mississippi home. Former Houston teammates Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran now play for the Cardinals.
Other clubs believed to be in the running for his services include the Astros, Red Sox and Tigers. Oswalt has pitched for the Phillies since July of 2010, when the Astros traded him. Houston and Philadelphia are the only professional organizations he has known.
The problem for the Cardinals is that they have five starting pitchers already in place: Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook. The two pitchers they might be most inclined to trade in order to make room for Oswalt, Lohse and Westbrook, both have full no-trade protection.
Thus, if St. Louis were to sign Oswalt, it would go to Spring Training with six starting pitchers -- not necessarily a problem, but certainly a complicated situation. Oswalt's agent, Bob Garber, told MLBTradeRumors.com on Saturday that Oswalt will not be pitching in relief in 2012.
Oswalt has a career record of 159-93 with a 3.21 ERA in 339 Major League appearances (326 starts). He went 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA with the Phillies in 2011, compiling 93 strikeouts against 33 walks in 139 innings over 23 starts. Oswalt battled back problems last season but finished strong, pitching well in September.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.