Free agent pitcher John Smoltz is 'strongly leaning' towards joining the Cardinals, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark is reporting. This comes after a FOXSports.com report that the Cardinals were the favorites to land the 42-year old future Hall of Famer.
Smoltz has told friends he will decide on a team Wednesday, once his release waivers expire and he officially becomes a free agent. However, all indications were that he will choose the Cardinals over a group of pursuers that includes the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, and Texas Rangers.
Smoltz is close with two current Cardinals - Mark DeRosa and Adam Wainwright - who have both actively recruited him this past week.
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Smoltz would likely replace Mitchell Boggs in the rotation, but with Boggs pitching well, it is possible we could see Smoltz go back to the bullpen. While Smoltz's numbers this season are disappointing, he was lights out in the first two innings of his final seven appearances, leading some teams to believe he could be more effective out of the bullpen.
In the final seven of those starts, he had a 0.64 ERA in the first two innings -- which led both the Cardinals and Marlins to conclude he would be most effective pitching out of the bullpen at this point in his career.
The team that signs Smoltz with have to pay the prorated major league minimum while the Red Sox are on the hook for the 5.5 million dollar contract he signed last offseason.