Multiple sources are confirming John Smoltz, who cleared waivers yesterday, signed a one-year deal for the league minimum to play for the Cardinals.
I will discuss this more tonight on the United Cardinal Bloggers Radio Hour, but for now some thoughts, and those thoughts are mixed.
One mind says this is a move to shore up the bullpen. Smoltz is the only pitcher with 200 wins and 150 saves, so he is capable in relief. He’s also right-handed, and the Cardinals right handed relief has been a roller coaster ride this year (McClellan, Motte, et al). However, Smoltz has appeared in relief only once since the end of the 2004 season, and that was his first appearance in 2008 after coming off the DL. So I don’t think he was signed to shore up the bullpen.
The other mind says he’s signed to start. Supporting this is Smoltz’ own preference to start, and the fact he refused a minor league assignment with the Red Sox to convert to a relief pitcher. At his best, Smoltz is a borderline HOF-er as a starter, and as recently as 2007 he made 32 starts and threw 205+ innings. Given the mostly poor quality starts the Cardinals have gotten out of Lohse/Wellemeyer/Thompson/Boggs, Smoltz could help.
Making me wince is Smoltz getting torched as a Red Sox starter (2-5, 8.32, 1.700 WHIP). Reports following his dismantling at the hands of the Yankees indicated he only has one ML pitch right now – a slider – and is wild in the strike zone. I know a lot of ‘smart boys’ point out the NL is the weaker league, that Matt Holliday has thrived since returning to the NL, and that Smoltz could recover just as nicely. I guess we’ll see.