Daily Dose: Smoltz hooks on with Cardinals

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John Smoltz landed on his feet Wednesday, signing with the Cardinals immediately after he cleared waivers. That he had multiple suitors isn’t a big shock, as apparently a handful of teams agreed with me that he can still get major-league hitters out, but finding a contender willing to hand him a rotation spot is surprising. Smoltz will make his Cardinals debut Sunday against the Padres, which is a very favorable matchup.
However, there’s already speculation that Smoltz may eventually head to the bullpen as a setup man for closer Ryan Franklin, which is interesting given that the Red Sox were told that he didn’t want to work in relief for them. Whatever the case, Smoltz is definitely worth grabbing in NL-only leagues. Expectations should obviously be held in check, but don’t be surprised if he looks like a totally different pitcher in the NL.
While the Cardinals get Smoltz for $100,000 after the Red Sox dropped $5 million on him, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* It sounds like Matt LaPorta will finally get an extended chance in Cleveland, as the Indians called him up Wednesday and manager Eric Wedge promised regular starts between the outfield corners and first base. LaPorta was on the bench for 12 of 24 games during his previous stint with Cleveland and has been stuck at Triple-A for the past three months despite hitting .299/.388/.530 with 17 homers in 93 games.
Cleveland has been out of contention for months now, yet LaPorta has stayed in the minors while guys like Trevor Crowe, Chris Gimenez, and Jamey Carroll get starts at his positions. Better late than never, of course, but the Indians’ treatment of LaPorta is odd given that he’s one of the top MLB-ready outfield prospects in baseball, turns 25 years old in January, and has crushed to the tune of .291/.384/.557 in the minors.
* Perhaps remembering how useless he was trying to play through a leg injury earlier this season, the Reds quickly put Willy Taveras on the disabled list with a strained quadriceps suffered Tuesday. They won’t miss Taveras much, as the speedster has hit just .238/.273/.284 in 93 games as the team’s primary leadoff man, and his injury provides an opportunity to look at 24-year-old prospect Drew Stubbs.
Stubbs was the No. 8 pick in the 2006 draft following a great career at the University of Texas, but has hit just .269 while showing little power as a pro. One thing he can do is run, with 46 steals in 107 games at Triple-A, and Taveras is evidence of Dusty Baker needing to see little else to deem someone a capable leadoff option. Stubbs is absolutely worth an NL-only pickup, but don’t expect much aside from steals.
AL Quick Hits: Clay Buchholz tossed six innings of one-run ball Wednesday, winning for the first time since his season debut … Justin Morneau remained out of the lineup Wednesday with dizziness from an inner-ear infection … Jake Peavy (ankle) plans to make at least two more rehab starts before joining the White Sox … Jered Weaver hurled his second complete-game shutout of the year Wednesday, cutting his ERA to 3.89 … Daisuke Matsuzaka (shoulder) is slated for a bullpen session Friday, with a rehab assignment next on the docket … Dustin Pedroia is expected to rejoin the team Thursday following the birth of his first child … Jeff Niemann leads the Rays with 11 wins after allowing one run in 7.1 innings Wednesday … David Ortiz took Roy Halladay deep Wednesday, homering for the third straight game … Dontrelle Willis exited his Wednesday rehab start at Triple-A with a knee injury … Paul Byrd allowed three runs over four innings in a Triple-A start Wednesday.
NL Quick Hits: Cliff Lee struck out 11, walked zero, and allowed just an unearned run in a complete-game two-hitter Wednesday … Joey Votto left Wednesday’s game in the first inning with blurred vision, which is a concern given his various maladies this season … Dan Haren served up three homers Wednesday and now has a 4.91 ERA since the All-Star break … Carlos Beltran (knee) ran in the outfield and took batting practice Wednesday, but there’s no timetable for his return … Barry Zito tossed six shutout innings Wednesday and has a 2.36 ERA in the second half … Gary Sheffield revealed Tuesday that he doesn’t expect to finish the season with the Mets … Mike Hampton has been diagnosed with a partially torn left rotator cuff, but will try to pitch through the career-threatening injury … Scott Rolen (concussion) is slated to begin a rehab assignment Thursday at Triple-A … Paul Maholm threw 7.2 innings of one-run ball Wednesday for his first win since July 7.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
AP Photo/Paul Beaty
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ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.

The Diamondbacks met with Johnny Cueto’s agent

AP Photo/David Goldman

Update (7:58 PM EST): Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart met with Cueto earlier this month in the Dominican Republic and made a contract offer that the right-hander turned down. The Diamondbacks maintain interest in the free agent.


Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Diamondbacks spoke with Bryce Dixon, the agent of free agent starter Johnny Cueto. However, Rosenthal notes that Cueto’s price tag is expected to exceed the Diamondbacks’ comfort level.

Cueto, 29, is one of a handful of highly touted starting pitchers in this offseason’s free agent class. He is joined by David Price and Zack Greinke, among others. Jordan Zimmermann inked a deal in the neighborhood of $110 million over five years with the Tigers on Sunday morning, which will serve as a barometer for Cueto.

Cueto finished the 2015 regular season, between the Reds and the Royals, with a 3.44 ERA and a 176/46 K/BB ratio over 212 innings. He made 13 shaky starts with the Royals, but outside of a shellacking in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, pitched well in the post-season. Cueto pitched a complete game in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets, helping put the Royals up two games to none at the time.

As a result of switching teams during the season, Cueto was not eligible to receive a $15.8 million qualifying offer. This means that Cueto, unlike Zimmermann for example, does not come attached with draft pick compensation.