Determined to prove he's not finished, veteran pitcher John Smoltz has signed with the St. Louis Cardinals after being released by Boston. The deal was finalized Wednesday afternoon.
Smoltz is expected to join the Cardinals' rotation, though he also is capable of working out of the bullpen. St. Louis, in Los Angeles for a night game against the Dodgers on Wednesday, is hoping that Smoltz will help provide the depth it will need for a strong stretch run.
The Cardinals lead the Chicago Cubs by six games in the NL Central and, having already added outfielder Matt Holliday, swingman Mark DeRosa and shortstop Julio Lugo, Smoltz would represent the fourth significant move by a club swinging for the fences and threatening to run away with the division.
How significant a move it will be, if it happens, is yet to be determined. Smoltz, 42, flamed out in Boston, going 2-5 with an 8.32 ERA after coming back from shoulder surgery.
The Cards are expected to plug Smoltz into the back end of their rotation, after Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse and Joel Pineiro. A return to the National League, where lineups are softer and there is no designated hitter, should be beneficial to Smoltz. And, the Cardinals are hoping, the more he pitches, the sharper he will get.
Even if Smoltz continues to struggle like he did in Boston -- he surrendered 59 hits, including eight home runs, in only 40 innings -- the move really carries very little risk for the Cardinals. They would be responsible for only a pro-rated portion of the major-league minimum -- about $100,000 -- and the Red Sox would be on the hook for the rest of his $5.5 million salary.
It is a relatively inexpensive gamble that the Cardinals hope pays off big: Smoltz is one of the best postseason pitchers in history (15-4 career record in October) and could be a lethal weapon either in the rotation or in relief for Tony La Russa's club at some point in the fall.