To be fair, John Smoltz isn't done yet. After first being designated for assignment, then refusing a trip to the minors, then being granted his outright release, the former Red Sox hurler has decided this failed stint in the American League East won't be the end of him. He's looking to catch on with one more club, if anyone will take him. And it looks like one will.
According to ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney and ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, there are four main candidates to be that club: the Texas Rangers, Florida Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals. Let's break this thing down one by one.
First of all, we can rule out Texas, right off the bat. The reason Smoltz failed in Boston was quite simple, really — it was his first time in the American League, and the lineups are just too deadly. With no easy outs in sight, Smoltz was prone to letting up big rallies.
If he wants to extend his career, he'll do it in the National League. It's worked for Jamie Moyer and Randy Johnson, and soon, it'll work for Smoltz too. The longer you pitch in the Senior Circuit, facing weaker clubs with fluffier lineups, the longer your time in baseball will last. Smoltz doesn't want to go to Arlington — it would be the end of him.
Next, we can rule out the Marlins. Smoltz wants to extend his career by making another playoff push — and there's no guarantee that the Fish will find their way into the postseason. They're currently lingering in the NL wild-card race along with a couple of West also-rans in Colorado and San Francisco, and statistically speaking, it stands to reason that the Rockies are the favorites. Why make a comeback if it'll die next month? Smoltz wants another shot at October, the month he's dominated throughout his career in Atlanta.
That leaves the Dodgers and Cardinals. Both are likely playoff-bound teams, and they'd each love to bring in one more hired gun — especially if the gun is hired for the pro-rated league minimum, with the Red Sox still paying Smoltz's full salary as per the contract they bought out. Each NL heavyweight can bring in an extra insurance arm at virtually no cost, and each would find a different use for him.
In St. Louis, Smoltz would go straight to the bullpen, possibly as a setup man. The Cardinals' rotation, led by Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, has been absolutely dominating — no need for Smoltz there. Ryan Franklin has been virtually perfect as the Cards' closer — Smoltz isn't taking that job. But as a seventh- or eighth-inning guy with some postseason experience, Smoltz has a little bit of value. At the low price, he's worth taking the risk.
In L.A., the situation is different. The Dodgers didn't foresee this, but all of a sudden, they could use a starter. Their original starting five is superb, but not always healthy — Chad Billingsley has been battling a hamstring ailment, and Hiroki Kuroda might end up on the DL after suffering what's been termed a "mild concussion." The Dodgers could use an extra arm, probably one that would slide into the starting rotation right away.
For Smoltz, life could be worse. He's endured one of the worst two-month stretches that a future Hall of Fame pitcher could ever ask for — putting up a 8.33 ERA in 40 innings — and yet still, somehow, he's got multiple pennant-contending teams banging on his door with job offers. That's a good place to be.
Soon enough, he'll take one of those offers. He wants to pitch — it's all he knows. And if he's lucky, he'll pitch not just now, but in September and maybe even beyond. That's what he does best.