The Dodgers, who are still looking for a proven starting pitcher to bolster their rotation, have joined the pursuit of free agent Joel Pineiro. But they might be running out of time to sign the veteran right-hander, who also is deep into discussions with the New York Mets.
A well-placed source within the Dodgers organization, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that club officials have spoken with Adam Katz, Pineiro's Los Angeles-based agent. But the source declined to provide any additional details.
Pineiro, 31, is a 10-year veteran coming off what arguably was the best season of his career in 2009. He went 15-12 with a 3.49 ERA for the National League Central champion St. Louis Cardinals and pitched a career-high 214 innings. He potentially would replace lefty Randy Wolf in a Dodgers rotation where, for now, only three spots are set with Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Clayton Kershaw.
However, signing Pineiro probably would require creativity on the part of the Dodgers and flexibility on the part of Pineiro. Although no one in the organization has admitted it publicly, all indications are that the Dodgers' front office is hamstrung financially by the ongoing divorce of owner Frank McCourt and his estranged wife Jamie and uncertainty about whether Jamie McCourt has a legitimate ownership claim, an issue that isn't expected to be resolved until a May 24 court hearing.
However, one Internet report on Tuesday night had the Mets discussing a two-year deal with Pineiro worth around $15 million. If Pineiro were willing to accept such a deal, it might put him closer to the Dodgers' price range than the four-year, $40 million contract he was seeking at the start of the winter or even the three years and $30 million he reportedly was willing to accept after Wolf signed a similar deal (three years, $29.75 million) with Milwaukee.
If Pineiro could consistently pitch at or near the level he pitched at in 2009, he would add credibility to a Dodgers rotation that otherwise figures to have fading veteran Russ Ortiz competing with the inexperienced likes of Scott Elbert, James McDonald, Carlos Monasterios and Eric Stults for the final two spots.
But Pineiro's track record would seem to suggest he might struggle to stay at that level. Other than last year and a long-ago stretch when he won 30 games over two seasons for the Seattle Mariners in 2002 and 2003, Pineiro is a sub-.500 pitcher for his career. Still, his strikeout-to-walk ratio has improved dramatically in recent years. In his 214 innings last year, he issued just 27 walks while striking out 105, and he gave up just 11 home runs.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.