LOS ANGELES -- Having already made several upgrades, the Cardinals are down to two areas of need: right-handed setup relief and the back of their starting rotation. They may soon make a move that could address either, or at different times, both.
Right-hander John Smoltz is reportedly on the verge of agreeing to a deal with St. Louis. It's unclear what role he would fill, but one entirely conceivable scenario would have him starting for the Cardinals down the stretch, and then moving to the bullpen when and if they make it to the postseason. A club source would not confirm a deal but acknowledged that an announcement could come during the day on Wednesday.
As late as Tuesday night, manager Tony La Russa declined to address the situation, other than to continue acknowledging the team's interest in Smoltz.
"My understanding is that he hasn't cleared waivers," La Russa said following the Cardinals' loss to the Dodgers. "So if he hasn't cleared waivers, somebody can take him. I could say barring somebody else taking him, he might come here. If he clears waivers, he might go someplace else and he might come here. It's safe to say he might come here. He might go someplace else."
On Tuesday night, ESPN.com reported that Smoltz was "strongly leaning" toward signing with St. Louis once he clears release waivers, which reportedly will happen at noon CT on Wednesday. Later that night, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that barring an unexpected last-minute waiver claim, Smoltz "will accept" the Cardinals' offer.
The club has acknowledged interest in the 42-year-old veteran, who pitched for Atlanta from 1988-2008 before signing with the Red Sox as a free agent over the winter. He struggled in Boston and was designated for assignment before being placed on release waivers. In eight starts with the Red Sox, he went 2-5 with an 8.32 ERA, though some of his peripheral numbers were quite strong. Smoltz struck out 33 against nine walks in 40 innings.
There were some strong indications he might be better suited to pitch in relief. Smoltz's performance was worse as he got deeper into games, and he was much more effective against right-handed hitters than lefties.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.