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Act three for Looper?

With Joel Pineiro signed up with the Angels and Vincente Padilla's decision to remain with the Dodgers, the slate of free agent starters is getting remarkably thin.

Ben Sheets and Jon Garland are the most recognizable names. And it's likely that one of them will end up with the Mets. But there are still some bargains to be had.

With his price surely dwindling, I would love to see the Cardinals take a run at former Redbird Braden Looper.

With experience as both a starter and a late inning reliever, Looper could help the Cardinals in a lot of ways. He is said to prefer to start since being converted to the rotation by St. Louis three years ago. So give him a chance to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation. If someone beats him out, he could be a nice bullpen righty for the club.

I would have to believe that Looper would be available for something in the range of $2-$3 million with the way the market has fallen flat this year. Pick him up on a one-year deal, let him pitch in front of the Cardinals' capable defense and work with Dave Duncan to refine his skills and then try to cash in on the 2011 free agent market.

A lot of people still hope that the Cardinals will re-sign John Smoltz. But, from what I hear, Smoltz is sticking to his financial demands of at least what he made with Boston and St. Louis last year -- $5 million plus incentives -- and that is too much for the Birds at this point. While Looper will never make it to the Hall of Fame, I'm not convinced Smoltz is a better option than him at this point because of health and age-related issues.