DENVER -- The Rockies' search for an innings-eater at the top of their rotation could lead them to pursue free-agent right-hander Roy Oswalt, who exceeded 200 frames in seven out of nine seasons before dealing with back issues while pitching for the Phillies. The Rockies' brain trust is in Scottsdale, Ariz., for a summit this week, and exploring Oswalt is among the many subjects. The Phillies declined a $16 million option on Oswalt for 2012 after he went 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA in 139 innings over 23 starts. The season included two stints on the disabled list with back problems. Oswalt, 34, was quoted at one point saying he was considering retirement. But after his second return, Oswalt went 5-4 with a 3.59 ERA in his final 11 games, including 10 starts, with 51 strikeouts and 15 walks. The veteran finished his season by giving up five runs and six hits in six innings of a 5-3 loss to the eventual World Series champion Cardinals in Game 4 of the National League Division Series.
Still, Oswalt expressed encouragement about his health, and reports indicate he is seeking a multiyear deal on the open market. Oswalt is a Type A free agent, meaning if the Phillies offer arbitration and he signs elsewhere, the team signing him would lose a Draft pick. However, it is unlikely the Phillies would make an arbitration offer. Philadelphia could be in the Oswalt sweepstakes if it can find a multiyear deal at a price it likes, and the Nationals have also expressed interest. With the most-seasoned starter on their roster, left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, not available early in the season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery that he underwent last May and with a list of candidates populated by youthful and unproven pitchers, the Rockies seek workhorses at the front and back of their rotation. Candidates for the back of the rotation are plentiful. The Rockies liked the work of righty Kevin Millwood, who joined the team from Triple-A Colorado Springs in August after the Yankees and Red Sox did not promote him to the Majors this past year. Millwood went 4-3 with a 3.98 ERA in nine starts for the Rockies and received positive reviews for his leadership and professionalism. But it isn't clear if Colorado is willing to extend Millwood the Major League contract he'd like to sign this winter. The Denver Post on Tuesday reported that the Rockies have also expressed interest in right-handers Rich Harden, whom they pursued as a reliever last winter, and Bruce Chen. Harden signed with the Athletics, but didn't pitch until July because of a strained lat muscle (4-4, 5.12 ERA in 15 starts) and health is always a concern. Chen has won 12 games in each of the past two seasons with the Royals. The Post also added the White Sox's John Danks to a list of front-of-the-rotation pitchers known to be available and has been linked to the Rockies in the past, including the Astros' Wandy Rodriguez, the Rays' Wade Davis and the Marlins' Ricky Nolasco.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.