ESPN's Jayson Stark reports that the Phillies have showed interest in 42-year-old free agent pitcher John Smoltz as a low risk, high reward signing, similar to the role played by Pedro Martinez last season.
He signed with St. Louis after being released by the Sox, starting seven games for the Red Birds. He pitched relatively well upon his return to the N.L. Smoltz went 1-3 with a 4.26 ERA.
His control wasn’t an issue last year with either team as he had very impressive strikeout-to-walk numbers, striking out 33 batters while walking just nine with Boston, and 40-to-nine ratio with the Cards.
Smoltz’s trouble with the Bo Sox was that he was giving up way too many hits and home runs. In 40 innings with Boston, Smoltz gave up 59 hits and nine homers.
With Dave Duncan as his pitching coach in St. Louis, he was able to trim down on the hits and long balls. While playing for the Cardinals, Smoltz allowed 36 hits and three homers in 38 innings.
Smoltzy will be turning 43 in May, so he’s on the downside of his career, however the age doesn’t show that he still can’t get batters out. Jamie Moyer is 46 years old, and is still getting it done.
When pitchers get past a certain age in their careers, they have to learn how to use their stuff and trust what they still have. It’s all about location, and utilizing your off-speed stuff rather than your heaters.
At this point in his career, he has to throw his sliders and breaking balls more often rather than falling back on his heater because it’s not that devastating fastball from years ago.
Smoltz isn’t fond of Citizens Bank Park so that could be a hurdle in negotiations with the future Hall-of-Fame pitcher, but that will not be the biggest roadblock in signing Smoltz.
There are two major things that could get in the way of snagging Smoltz. The first whether he would be willing to accept the role as a reliever, and the second is how much money will he be asking for.
In his storied career, he has been both a great starter and a great reliever. At one time, he was among the game’s best closers. Will he go back to the bullpen as a seventh or eighth-inning guy?
I think he’s better suited for the ‘pen because he doesn’t have the stuff or the health to give you five-plus innings every fifth day. And for the Phillies, he would be insurance to Brad Lidge.
He fits with the Phils as a reliever in my opinion, however he could also help the team’s depth at starting pitcher. Maybe the Phils should promise him a chance to earn a starting job like they did with Chan Ho Park?
It’s unlikely that Pedro will be back, and Moyer seems to be a huge question mark so who knows who will be the fifth starter come opening day. Depth is an issue in terms of starters.
Smoltz showed with the Cards that he can still be a serviceable starter, a guy who can give you five quality innings every fifth day. But whether he can he do it over a full season is still up in the air.
With his past history of greatness, Smoltz may think that he’s due a few million bucks even though he hasn’t done anything other than show that he could be an OK fifth starter in the last couple of years.
The Phillies are in the market for bargain-bin type pitchers for both the rotation and bullpen. Rather than overpay for quality, they’ll pay for average, which I have no problem with.
Some fans will have a problem with them looking at players like this because they aren’t “willing to throw out the big bucks.”
To those fans, didn’t they acquire a highly paid pitcher at the deadline?
Great teams are ones who aren’t afraid to take risks, like Phils did when they signed Martinez.
If the Phillies have proved anything in the last year, the best deal doesn’t always come with the highest price tag. Instead of paying the premium to get Roy Halladay, they gave up less for Cliff Lee.
So, instead of targeting John Lackey or Randy Wolf in free agency, the Phils are looking at John Smoltz-type pitchers. Guys who can be bought for low, and possibly give a high return.
Justin Duchscherer anyone?
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