UPDATE: No deal yet between Cardinals and Roy Oswalt

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UPDATE: Oswalt’s agent, Bob Garber, told Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors this morning that there’s “no chance” of his client pitching out of the bullpen.

8:31 AM: Hold your horses, everyone. When most of us went to bed, it appeared as though Roy Oswalt was St. Louis-bound. That may still be the case, but Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com has backtracked a bit from his previous report. He calls a deal likely to happen “soon” and was told by a source that it’s “not 100 percent” yet.

Meanwhile, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are insisting that no deal is in place with Oswalt. Any deal would be contingent upon a physical and the veteran right-hander has a history of back problems, so it’s possible some formalities are standing in the way of an official agreement. For now, we wait.

1:09 AM: Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reports that Roy Oswalt is headed to the Cardinals. No word yet on the terms of the contract.

8:36 PM, Friday: Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM reports that the Cardinals and Roy Oswalt are close to agreeing on a contract. Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald confirms Duquette’s report, but adds that the process may take “another day or two.”

No word on the specific terms being discussed, but Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported earlier this week that the Cardinals made an offer to Oswalt a few weeks ago “approaching $5 million.” Strauss didn’t think that would be enough to get it done and even pegged the Rangers as the favorites.

As for Duquette, he hears that the Red Sox, Astros and Rangers remain in the mix. The Astros are a bit of a head-scratcher given that they haven’t been mentioned until this point and aren’t anywhere close to contending, but perhaps Oswalt gave some thought to going back to where it all started.

Of course, the interesting part of a potential match with the Cardinals is that they already have five starters and Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook have full no-trade clauses in their respective contracts. By the way, Lohse will make $11.57 million in 2012 while Westbrook is owed $8.5 million this season and a $1 million buyout on his $8.5 million mutual option for 2013. Oswalt has the potential to make them better, obviously, but that could be a messy situation.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.