Sources: Several clubs like Smoltz
Some National League teams, as well as the Texas Rangers, have interest in acquiring John Smoltz, major league sources say, which is an early indication that he will have another opportunity to pitch this year -- if he chooses to take it.
Smoltz, 42, is mulling his options. The Red Sox designated Smoltz for assignment on Friday when they made the move to take him off their 40-man roster. They would like the veteran to accept an assignment to the minors where he could transition into a possible relief role for Boston -- but the Red Sox also indicated they would like him to restructure a clause in his contract that allows him to make $35,000 for each day he is on the major league roster, above and beyond his base salary.
The interest from National League teams is likely conditional, given the fact that Smoltz posted an 8.32 ERA for the Red Sox and allowed eight homers in his final 15 innings. It is highly unlikely that any NL team would be willing to take Smoltz in a trade without some financial adjustment from the Red Sox, perhaps with Boston kicking in money to pay off a large portion of his base salary and roster bonus. Interested teams could also gamble and wait for Boston to simply release Smoltz, and sign him for the prorated minimum.
But a lot will depend on what Smoltz wants to do. He could choose to retire and perhaps go into broadcasting, or he could just go home. Smoltz worked extremely hard to put himself into position to pitch this year, and his fastball velocity has actually been OK, in the low-90s, but his feel and consistency of his secondary pitches has been a problem.
There are many NL contenders currently scrambling for pitching -- the Dodgers, the Cubs the Brewers and the Astros, among them -- and there are teams willing to give the right-hander a shot at re-establishing himself in the league where he dominated for two decades.
The Rangers recently cut loose pitcher Vicente Padilla and have been looking for a veteran pitcher for weeks -- they had talks with the Blue Jays about Roy Halladay, for example. But Texas might be hard-pressed to make a deal with Boston, considering the Rangers have been chasing the Red Sox in the wild-card race.
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.