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John Smoltz Rumors
Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio have been elected to the Baseball Hall Of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association Of America. All were inducted in their first year of eligibility except for Biggio, who was on the ballot for the third year.
Perhaps the best left-handed pitcher of all time, Johnson recorded 4875 career strikeouts over his career (second only to Nolan Ryan) and his 10.61 K/9 rate is the highest in baseball history. “The Big Unit” was a fearsome figure on the mound, standing at 6’10” and throwing a 100-mph fastball that helped him win 303 games and five Cy Young Awards over his 22-year career. Johnson played for six teams in his career but is mostly remembered as a Mariner (10 seasons) and as a Diamondback (eight seasons). His time in Arizona was punctuated by a perfect game in 2004 and sharing World Series MVP honors with Curt Schilling when the D’Backs won it all in 2001. Johnson accumulated 111.7 fWAR (fifth all-time amongst pitchers) and 104.3 rWAR (ninth) over his career.
Martinez won three Cy Young Awards over his 18 MLB seasons and is a revered figure in Boston for helping the Red Sox break their World Series jinx in 2004. Martinez collected 219 wins, 3154 strikeouts over his career and he posted the best ERA+ (154) of any starter in history. Martinez’s 1999 and 2000 seasons are arguably the two greatest pitching seasons in baseball history — despite home games in hitter-friendly Fenway Park in the midst of the steroid era, Martinez posted a 1.90 ERA, 12.5 K/9 and 8.65 K/BB rate over 430 1/3 IP over those two seasons, plus an uncanny 215 ERA+. While he threw “only” 2827 1/3 innings over his career, much less than many other all-time greats, Martinez still finished with 87.1 fWAR (16th all-time) and 86 rWAR (17th).
Smoltz spent 20 of his 21 seasons with the Braves, teaming with fellow HOFers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine as the cornerstones of the Atlanta rotation throughout the 1990’s. Smoltz’s career resume includes the 1996 NL Cy Young Award, 3084 strikeouts, 213 wins and a World Series ring in 1995. After missing the entire 2000 season due to Tommy John surgery, Smoltz pitched primarily as a reliever from 2001-04 and dominated to the tune of 154 saves in 167 chances. Smoltz amassed 78.7 fWAR (22nd all-time) and 66.5 rWAR (39th).
After falling just two votes shy of induction to the Hall last winter, Biggio is finally on his way to Cooperstown. Biggio spent all 20 of his seasons with the Astros, forming “the Killer B’s” with Jeff Bagwell and other notable B-named teammates like Derek Bell and Lance Berkman in the Houston lineup. Biggio’s 3060 career hits rank him 21st all-time in baseball history and he posted a career slash line of .283/.363/.433 with 291 homers, 1844 runs and 414 steals. He finished with 65.1 WAR for his career according to both Fangraphs (which places him 84th among position players) and Baseball-Reference (92nd).
Stepping into Biggio’s shoes this year was catcher Mike Piazza, who just missed election but could be set up for a successful run next time around. He played in 16 big league seasons, racking up a lifetime .308/.377/.545 slash and 427 home runs while spending the vast majority of his time behind the dish. He tallied 59.4 rWAR and 63.5 fWAR when his defense and baserunning were accounted for, easily placing him within the ten most productive backstops of all time. Piazza certainly has a claim as the best-hitting catcher in MLB history, as his lifetime 140 wRC+ trails only the still-active (and still in-prime) Buster Posey.
It happens every spring. Pitchers nurse shoulders, backs and elbows to health in preparation for the season. But there are no guarantees for any injured pitcher, regardless of his resume.
“You’ve got to know what your body can and can’t do,” John Smoltz told me in a recent interview. “Not every pitcher’s going to be perfectly healthy their whole career, so there has to be some degree of discomfort that you have to pitch through. Once you learn how to do that, you’re able to overcome more.”
Smoltz speaks from experience. He recovered from Tommy John surgery to reinvent himself as a dominant closer and worked through shoulder problems to strike out nearly a batter per inning as a 42-year-old. Now an analyst with MLB Network, he recently caught up with a number of high-profile pitchers returning from injuries for his role on MLB Tonight.
When Smoltz signed with the 2009 Cardinals, Adam Wainwright was at his peak, in the midst of a season that would see him post a 2.63 ERA in a league-leading 233 innings. Two and a half years later, Wainwright’s returning from ligament replacement surgery and expectations are lofty.
“That’s where Tommy John surgery is a little misunderstood,” Smoltz said. “Adam basically is looked upon this year I think unfairly as a big cog to replace the departure of Albert Pujols and now possibly the delay of Chris Carpenter. That’s an unfair situation for him to go in, since he needs the same kind of time and grace that everybody does returning from Tommy John.”
Regaining full strength following Tommy John surgery took more than a year for Smoltz, who missed the 2000 season recovering from the operation. But he acknowledges recovery times vary from pitcher to pitcher and anticipates a strong season from Wainwright.
“Can he go back to the Cy Young type numbers? I don’t know,” Smoltz said. “I think it’s a little unfair [to expect that] the first year. But I certainly can see him doing easily some of the things that we’ve expected him to do in that first year.”
Smoltz believes Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson will rebound from a disappointing 2011 season. In fact, Johnson may have benefitted from his team's cautious approach late last season. He didn't pitch after May 16th last year, and Smoltz suggested the Marlins could have rushed him back under different circumstances.
“That’s a luxury," he said. "I expect that everything is where it needs to be and that he’s going to go out there and, unfortunately for the hitters, probably dominate.”
Smoltz last played for the Braves four years ago, but he spent two decades in Atlanta, so he knows the organization as well as anyone. He says former teammates Tim Hudson (back) and Jair Jurrjens (knee) must make most of their starts to have successful seasons. The Braves will be relying on their starters, since a repeat performance from their relievers may be unrealistic.
“There’s no way the bullpen can do what they did last year with the amount of times they were used,” Smoltz said. “I think the starting pitching has got to find a way to pitch some much-needed innings over the course of the season.”
A few months ago, the Braves seemed to have an abundance of starting pitching, and Mike Minor seemed expendable. Now that Julio Teheran has been sent to the minor leagues and Arodys Vizcaino is out for the season, Minor’s a key component of the Braves’ pitching staff. “Sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you don’t make,” Smoltz noted.
Mets fans who wish their team had never traded for Johan Santana might agree with that sentiment whole-heartedly. But there’s optimism that the Mets will see some return from the $24MM left-hander in 2012. Smoltz says the two-time Cy Young Award winner seems just as motivated as the 26-year-old Jurrjens.
“They both have the urgency to want to pitch, but it’s different,” he said. “You’ve got a guy in Johan Santana with all of the hardware, big contract. He wants to get out there and compete. I’ve heard nothing but unbelievable things.”
Cy Young Awards are a motivator for pitchers coming back from injury, but contracts also lurk in the background. Even Smoltz, a future Hall of Famer, wasn’t able to generate interest based on his resume alone during his playing days. Successfully returning from an injury can make all the difference when it’s time for a new contract.
“In sports you’re as good as your last impression,” Smoltz says.
For these pitchers, the 2012 season represents the opportunity to create new impressions and erase old ones.
John Smoltz will be a game analyst for the MLB Network Showcase schedule this season beginning on Friday, April 20 featuring the Red Sox v. Yankees at 3pm ET. MLB Network will feature a package of live 30 games featuring all 30 Clubs beginning on Thursday, April 5 between the Dodgers & Padres. Photo courtesy of US Presswire.
The Cardinals have begun searching for starting pitching, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Kyle Lohse and Brad Penny are on the mend, so GM John Mozeliak is on the lookout. Since Lohse and Penny have uncertain timetables as they recover from injuries, manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan asked Mozeliak to look for help outside the organization.
The Cardinals could use arms soon, so they're not likely to pursue pitchers like Pedro Martinez, Braden Looper and John Smoltz, who have been inactive so far in 2010. La Russa and Duncan appear willing to discuss a reunion with Jeff Suppan, who was recently released by the Brewers. The club also appears interested in Kevin Millwood, according to Strauss, though the team would not likely be able to take on the remainder of Millwood's $12MM salary.
Links for Wednesday, as the Brewers wonder how to fix Trevor Hoffman…
- GM Frank Wren says not to expect any trades to upgrade the Braves' offense this early in the season, writes David O' Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle suggests the Giants ought to monitor the potential availability of Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez.
- John Smoltz isn't throwing, but he also won't say he's officially retired, tweets Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. We looked yesterday at a couple teams that could be fits for Smoltz, if the 42-year-old decides to pitch again.
- MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince writes that the Indians will have to decide on the future of Rule 5 pick Hector Ambriz next week. Ambriz's rehab assignment expires on May 8th.
- Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic talked to Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes, who said he doesn't want to overreact to the team's bullpen struggles. Byrnes seems to want to hold on to his trade chips for now.
- Asked about Matt Kemp by KABC's Peter Tilden, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti expressed his dissatisfaction with the center fielder's baserunning and defense. Said Colletti: "Why is it? Because he got a new deal? I can't tell you." Regarding acquiring pitching, Colletti said it's too early to get into trade talk.
- Joe Posnanski wonders when age will catch up with Ryan Howard.
- Designated hitter is supposed to be an easy position to fill, but ESPN's Jerry Crasnick finds nine teams struggling for offense out of the spot.
According to talent evaluators that spoke to ESPN.com's Buster Olney recently, this year's starting pitching trade market may not take shape for another couple months. For pitching-desperate teams that don't want to take on a salary dump, that means the few remaining arms on the free agent market might be their best bet. Let's take a look at the latest news on some of the more notable pitchers still available….
- Jarrod Washburn: The Diamondbacks were rumored to have a passing interest in Washburn, but not at his asking price. The last we heard from agent Scott Boras was that as many as five teams were after the 35-year-old, though that was nearly three weeks ago. It seems that Boras and Washburn still have a vastly different perception of the left-hander's worth than most GMs do. Could the Dodgers be a possibility? According to Sirius XM Radio's Jim Bowden (via Twitter), GM Ned Colletti is still looking for a pitcher at the right price.
- Pedro Martinez: It's looking increasingly likely that Pedro will once again only pitch a half-season. The Mets are considered a potential landing spot for the righty, but the Phillies might be the favorites. Martinez had a successful stint with in Philadelphia in 2009, and the two sides have been keeping in touch this year. The Dodgers could be in the mix too, though the 38-year-old still harbors bad feelings toward the organization, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
- Braden Looper: Although the 35-year-old righty threw for the Cubs recently, they're not expected to sign him. Looper is probably most valuable as an innings-eater starter, while the Cubs are in need of a setup man. There hasn't been a lot of concrete news about Looper lately, but the Rockies could potentially be a fit. Tracy Ringolsby of Inside the Rockies opined three weeks ago that Looper-to-Colorado would be a logical match, and if both Jorge de la Rosa and Jason Hammel head to the disabled list, the Rockies would be missing two crucial starters.
- John Smoltz: He may be a TBS analyst for now, but Smoltz still hasn't ruled out pitching this season. The Phillies were rumored to be interested, though you'd have to think it'd be a case of either Martinez or Smoltz for Philadelphia, rather than both. Like Pedro, the 42-year-old is more likely to pitch for a National League club if he returns, so once again the Dodgers make sense as a potential suitor.
For a full rundown of all the arms still available, check out our list of remaining 2010 free agents.
Roughly one month ago, the Dodgers appeared to have a surplus of starting pitching. There were more than a handful of hurlers who were making a strong case for the fifth spot in the rotation. Carlos Monasterios, Charlie Haeger, Josh Lindblom, Ramon Ortiz, Eric Stults, and Russ Ortiz were all impressive during Spring Training. There were so many candidates to choose from that the Dodgers sold Stults' contract to a Japanese team. My, how things have changed.
Russ Ortiz was DFA'd after floundering in seven big league innings. Haeger hasn't found much success in 15.1 IP (three starts and one relief appearance) either. Now, the Dodgers have another hole to fill as Padilla is headed to the disabled list with a sore elbow. There are pitchers at the ready in Triple-A Albuquerque, including the aforementioned Lindblom and once-ballyhooed James McDonald, though all have their fair share of question marks. Padilla's injury aside, the Dodgers' starting five still looks like it could use a lift.
Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times drops the names of three notable starters still available on the open market: Jarrod Washburn, John Smoltz, and Pedro Martinez. Washburn seems to be holding out for a deal approaching the $5MM he was offered by Minnesota this winter. Smoltz won't completely rule out a return to baseball, though he's enjoying his television gigs. Pedro is reportedly maintaining contact with the Phillies, though he is said to still hold a grudge against the Dodgers over things that happened back when jheri curls were still somewhat in vogue.
Should the cash-strapped Dodgers look into signing one of these vets or should they find other ways to improve?
Links for Saturday..
- R.J. Anderson at FanGraphs isn't quite sure why Brett Anderson (and his agent) would agree to the four year extension he signed, but he also notes that Oakland's side of the deal isn't exactly risk-free.
- Baseball color analyst John Smoltz won't completely rule out a return to baseball, writes Chad Finn of the Boston Globe. In March, Ken Rosenthal noted that the Phillies have shown strong interest in the soon-to-be 43-year-old as a possible mid-season addition.
- Ozzie Guillen stood up for White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Orioles owner Peter Angelos said that he would be happy to sit down and talk with Cal Ripken Jr. if he is interested in a position with the club, writes Buster Olney of ESPN.
- Mets manager Jerry Manuel shot down rumors of a clubhouse rift, tweets David Lennon of Newsday.
- Outfielder Fred Lewis is happy to be a member of the Blue Jays, according to Larry Millson and James Hall of MLB.com. The Giants shipped the 29-year-old to Toronto earlier this week and will receive either cash or a player to be named later in return.
5:00pm: Smoltz's contract with TBS contains outs if wants to resume his baseball career, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. No surprise there. Rosenthal notes that the Phillies "have shown a strong interest in Smoltz as a possible midseason addition."
THURSDAY, 12:24pm: Smoltz put the odds of pitching again at 50-1, talking to Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution yesterday.
TUESDAY, 12:31pm: Free agent pitcher John Smoltz will join TBS as a regular season and playoff analyst, according to a press release. Smoltz's statement on the career move: "Joining Turner Sports' Major League Baseball coverage is a great opportunity for me to stay immersed in the game that I love and I'm really looking forward to this experience."
Smoltz told the AP he is not officially retired, though ESPN's Buster Olney talked to some club execs who read his career move that way. Smoltz was still able to demonstrate strikeout and control skills in his 78 big league innings last year and generated interest from ten teams as a free agent. A few days ago, Smoltz told Murray Chass he hasn't ruled out pitching but hasn't made any decisions.
Sunday night linkage..
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wonders if money might be a factor in the Nationals' starting shortstop battle. Ian Desmond is making a compelling case for the starting job but the club might be unwilling to put Cristian Guzman and his $8MM contract on the bench.
- Padres closer Heath Bell told Tom Krasovic of AOL Fanhouse that he would be agreeable to signing an extension that is budget-friendly for the Padres. San Diego avoided arbitration with Bell in January when they agreed to a one-year, $4MM pact.
- It appears that reliever Ron Mahay won't be signing with the Mets, writes Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News. A source tells Rubin that there's no way Mahay would accept a minor league deal. Meanwhile, a separate source says that the Mets won't offer a major league contract.
- In his latest mailbag, a reader suggests to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro that the Marlins should sign John Smoltz. Frisaro says that the Marlins have no interest in the 42-year-old as the 26-year-old Josh Johnson is a good influence on the team's young pitchers.