Those of you who love terse, quick-to-read morning reports -- yeah, yeah, like time constraints are really any excuse -- and especially love rumors centered around high-risk commodities are in plenty of luck this morning, as the FOXSports.com hot stove power team of Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi have reported that the Texas Rangers are among a seven-team collective which has expressed "preliminary interest" in free agent right-hander John Smoltz. And the beat goes on and on and on ...
This one would be all too easy to heave upon the fast-growing "who really cares?" pile of hearsay and unsourced rumors, except that the Rangers were, to some extent, interested in acquiring Smoltz following his designation for assignment by the fed-up Red Sox in early August; shortly thereafter, the 42-year-old hurler landed in St. Louis and figuratively stepped on the Senior Circuit's throat, logging 38 innings of sub-3.50 ERA baseball down the stretch while posting a brilliant strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 40-to-9 and, in essence, revitalizing his eroding market value. If you can miss bats like that at the age of 42, you've got a place in this league somewhere.
One thing that really struck me right after Smoltz was cut loose -- well, beyond the back-and-forth verbal jousting between those who believed he was washed up and those who believed he had something left -- was the stated notion that because it was Theo Epstein who had released him, Smoltz truly was finished; in other words, if Epstein couldn't find it, then it simply wasn't there to find in the first place. Yeah, Epstein's a fine general manager and he runs an excellent front office, but it's foolhardy to operate off the assumption that the smartest baseball people can't screw up. Heck, it probably happens more often than we think.
Regarding the present-day version of Smoltz, there's some thought that he could capably serve as a closer if no teams express interest in utilizing him as a starting pitcher; there's also no clarification as to what sort of role he might fill in Texas, but if the Rangers are seriously motivated to protect their limited cache of major league starting pitching depth through the 2010 regular season's early weeks, there's some logic behind the idea of slotting Smoltz into the No. 5 hole and keeping the phone numbers of Brandon McCarthy, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz programmed into speed dial. You know you'll be ringing at least one of them up sooner rather than later.
Conversely, dumping Frank Francisco to create a vacancy in the closer's role for the sole benefit of Smoltz doesn't make nearly as much sense, unless you can somehow leverage Francisco into other meaningful roster improvements (e.g. as part of a package deal for a primo starting pitcher or slugger) and are reasonably confident that Smoltz's diminished velocity won't precipitate another crash-and-burn situation. Cutting loose your fifth starter on the fly is one thing, but when you start to run multiple people through the ninth-inning role in a short period of time and leads start being lost, that's when things can really get ugly.
Quick Hits: According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, prospective owner Chuck Greenberg and Rangers team president Nolan Ryan have fielded "significant interest from local investors" and seem to have formed a de facto partnership; ESPN.com's Buster Olney reported last Saturday that final bids to purchase the ballclub were to be submitted this week, further closing Hicks Sports Group's window to retain majority control of the franchise.