The Cardinals still have that $6-7 million left to spend. And management is taking its time. The money represents the last addition the Cards can make to put the finishing touches on the roster. St. Louis wants to get it right. Felipe Lopez is the popular choice. He is versatile, adds depth to many positions, and a good left-handed stick off the bench. It seems like a no-brainer. But the club hasn’t pulled the trigger. So, what other options are out there for the Cards?
The most intriguing choices are pitchers. Derrick Goold looks at free agent possibilities and lists John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez as candidates to join the Cards clubhouse. The fifth spot in the rotation is a big question mark going into Spring Training. Rich Hill hopes to put the bite back in his curve. Kyle McClellan wants the starting shot every pitcher craves. Other young prospects will have the chance to make an impression. But it remains to be seen if any of these options will get the job done. Smoltz and Martinez would add intrigue to the race. Both have been getting the job done for years – “old goats as Pedro would say.” Now, they just want one more year to compete and finish off Hall of Fame careers. St. Louis is an appealing landing spot for both. Let’s take a look at what each has to offer.
Smoltz spent last season in Boston and St. Louis after a brilliant 20-year career with the Atlanta Braves. He scuffled through eight starts in Boston, but wasn’t ready to hang it up. St. Louis called and Smoltz was soon a Cardinal. He improved in St. Louis, but his stay was relatively uneventful. He won just a single game in seven starts. By all accounts, he was a positive influence in the clubhouse for the young guys. He gave the club good, competitive innings when he took the ball. Often described as an ultra-competitive perfectionist, anything less would be unacceptable to the veteran. Tim Kurkjian called him the most competitive person after Cal Ripken that he has met in 30 years of baseball. That’s pretty competitive considering Ripken’s drive. He is baseball’s Iron Man and killed himself after every little mistake. He needs to win in everything he does. He needs to be the best. While it seems like Smoltz is finally over the hill, his experience and gutty attitude make him a viable option for the Cards. He could start or close as he did with the Braves after arm trouble. Kurkjian said it best last offseason, “The odds are probably against him, but they’ve been against him many times. But don’t bet against him.”
The same can be said of Pedro Martinez. Martinez came up as a wiry and fragile power pitcher. His frame would never hold up with that style. Then, he blew away the competition and let everyone know about it. Pedro was a heckuva competitor, too. He was in the middle of the Yankees-Red Sox battles earlier in the decade. Pedro never shied away from confrontation. He owned the plate with his aggressive style and often threw inside. After a few disappointing seasons in New York, it seemed like Pedro was at the end of the line. It was over. Then, whispers began that Martinez wasn’t finished. He wanted to pitch again. Midway through the season, he signed with the Phillies giving the defending champs more depth. It was a low-risk, high-reward deal. Being from Reading, Pennsylvania, I was skeptical. Pedro hadn’t pitched well in over two years. He was underwhelming and inconsistent during his minor league tour, including a stop in Reading. I didn’t see it. Eventually, Pedro got his shot in Philly. And he shined. Like he had done his entire career, Martinez ate up the big stage and the limelight. He captivated the city with his smile and enthusiasm. He was just an “old goat” having some fun again. And it was awesome to watch. The atmosphere was electric in Philly when he took the ball. Pedro still had the pinpoint control, pounding the corners. He had a good fastball, a sharp curve, and a devastating change. And he had the fire. Pedro looked young again. It was a pleasure to watch and I think he could do the same for a team this season. If he is available halfway through again, I would give him a long and hard look. St. Louis would love him. He would love St. Louis. And he would certainly win some games along the way.
So, which “old goat” would be better for St. Louis, John Smoltz or Pedro Martinez?