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Pineiro says he wants to come back

Cardinals starter Joel Pineiro told that he wants to stay in St. Louis beyond the expiration of his current contract at the end of the season, and who could blame him?

After flaming out in Seattle and Boston, Pineiro has had a renaissance in St. Louis. He's 14-10 with a 3.21 ERA. With a little bit more offensive assistance early in the season, his record could easily be 18-6.

blog post photo

Cardinals starter Joel Pineiro wants to talk about a contract extension. GM John Mozeliak is playing it cool, however, wanting to hold off any talks until after the season. AP photo.

It's a good fit for both him and the club. But, with some other pretty serious free agent irons in the fire, whether Pineiro's wish to stay will come true depends only on how bad he wants it. He would have to sacrifice some serious cash to make it happen.

The Cardinals' top priority has to be to sign Matt Holliday. It is incredibly obvious how Holliday's presence turned this team from a .500 club into a legitimate contender. Next on the list is Mark DeRosa, a steady veteran leader who offers both stability and versatility to the offense and defense. Pineiro, through no fault of his own, is the third priority -- at best -- on a team with limited funds.

As I said a couple of days ago, signing Holliday and DeRosa and bringing back the rest of the roster (sans Pineiro and the other free agent casualties including Troy Glaus, Khalil Greene...) at already agreed to or expected salaries results in a payroll just shy of $94 million. Pineiro is making $7.5 million this season based on some pretty mediocre results prior to 2007. It would seem that the only chance he has to come back is if he would come back for the same amount he was getting this year -- and the Cardinals cut ties with future Hall of Famer John Smoltz. Pineiro doesn't sound like he has that sort of deal in mind.

"Definitely, I like it here," Pineiro told Tuesday. "I like the staff, the players, everything. I saw what happened with Kyle Lohse last year and obviously that worked out great for him."

I'm sure four years and $41 million sounds great. But Pineiro needs to forget about that sort of deal if he wants to be a Cardinal. I'd love to be a Cardinal. But if they offered me a one-year deal for $5 million and someone else offered me $36 million for three years, I think I would lead toward packing my bags.

No offense to Pineiro, but if I was the Cardinals GM, I wouldn't be willing to cough up that sort of money for a guy with such a spotty track record no matter how great of a 2009 he had. Especially when it looks like it would take a miracle to talk pitching coach Dave Duncan into coming back next year.

It seems like a large part of Pineiro's turnaround is due to the fact that he finally bought into Duncan's teachings after the shock of being left off of Puerto Rico's World Baseball Classic by the team's manager, Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo. To his credit, after some initial pouting, Pineiro threw himself into becoming the pitcher he was once upon a time in Seattle...

Pineiro told that Duncan had been asking him to try adding a sinker to his mix since he arrived in 2007 and that he said no until spring training 2009. The pitch seems to be the key to his success. Can he keep it up without his mentor?

The Cardinals are committed to pitchers Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse for the next three seasons. And they have to be at least a little bit concerned about the fact that they gave Lohse $41 million for four years based on one decent season only to see him spend two stints on the DL while earning only five wins with a 5-ish ERA.

The best thing that happened to the Cardinals next season would be to bring back Holliday and DeRosa to keep the offense intact... meanwhile 2010 Kyle Lohse needs to look a lot more like 2008 Kyle Lohse to give the Birds a strong top three starters.

St. Louis can't afford a $10 million a year fourth starter. Hopefully the team could bring back John Smoltz at a reasonable price to be the No. 4 guy and Blake Hawksworth, Mitchell Boggs and Jaime Garcia can fight it out for the fifth spot.

That, not having a $10 million a year starter -- is the best chance this team has to compete beyond 2009.

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