Poised to start Game 3 of the NLDS for the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, attempting to stave off elimination, Joel Pineiro will have his performance under a little extra scrutiny. Pineiro benefits from being part of a weak free agent class for starting pitchers, and is coming off his best season in a Cardinals uniform. A strong playoff showing this weekend could make him even more desirable for potential suitors.
The 31-year-old Pineiro set a career high in innings pitched (214 IP), starting 32 games for the NL Central champs. His 3.49 ERA and 1.14 WHIP were significantly lower than his career ratios of 4.39 and 1.34. Plus, he displayed outstanding control (1.1 BB/9), along with an ability to keep the ball in the park (0.5 HR/9).
Pineiro has said he wants to stay in St. Louis, but the Cardinals have a handful of potential free agents to worry about. Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa have expiring contracts, and the Cards also hope to lock up Albert Pujols to a long-term deal. Pineiro's current two-year contract earned him $13MM, and SI.com's Jon Heyman expects the righty to sign for more money this time. Will St. Louis make re-signing their third starter a major priority this winter? Will another club make him a more lucrative offer? If you're a GM, do you trust Pineiro's performance in 2009, a contract year? Let's hear your thoughts in the comments section.