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Should The Cubs Sign John Smoltz?

When John Smoltz was pounded by the Yankees on August 6 at Yankee Stadium, and subsequently designated for assignment by the Red Sox, some here wondered whether it might be a good idea for the Cubs to take a flyer on him.

On August 6 the Cubs were tied for first place, were two games ahead of the Cardinals in the loss column, had just gotten an outstanding first outing out of Tom Gorzelanny, and things looked pretty good. So I said, "Why bother?"

Since then -- not so much. The Cubs are 3-7 since August 6, the bullpen is in full-time meltdown mode, and Lou Piniella says the Cubs are going to make a change at closer.

So -- why not John Smoltz? His eight American League starts for the Red Sox this year were, overall, pretty bad -- that 8.32 ERA is horrendous. He allowed no homers in the first four starts, then nine in the last four. But the Cubs would not be looking to use Smoltz as a starter -- with Carlos Zambrano coming back next week, they have six capable starters already.

Smoltz has 154 career saves, posted between 2001 and 2004 with the Braves while he was trying to get his elbow back and stretched out so he could return to starting, which he did for four successful years in Atlanta from 2005-2008. As a Cub, he'd be slotted in to close, not start, however. The key stat to look at, then, is to see what Smoltz has done this year the first time he faces a batter in a game. The answer is: .250/.342/.313 in a total of 74 plate appearances by such batters. None of the nine HR allowed by Smoltz were given up the first time he faced a batter in a game.

In his eight starts, he faced the Orioles three times, the Royals, the Rangers, the Yankees, the Athletics, and the Nationals. All of those teams have pretty good offenses. The NL teams remaining on the Cubs' schedule don't, with the exception of the Dodgers and Cardinals. Smoltz is more familiar with the NL than the AL (which makes it a puzzler why he signed with the Red Sox in the first place) and he has been a successful closer.

This would be a Jim Edmonds-type move, signing a player who appears to be, as I put it last year, "D-O-N-E done", for a pro-rated portion of the major league minimum salary -- with about 1/4 of the season remaining, it would be a little over $100,000. That's less than half of one bleacher crowd.

So, I say, using the time-honored BCB phrase, "Get it done, Jim!" Via MLB Trade Rumors, there's a report that the Cardinals are interested in Smoltz to be their fifth starter.

He's more valuable to the Cubs as a closer. Let's do it. Now.