The deadline for decisions on player options is due by tonight at 11:59 PM EST. The Pittsburgh Pirates have four players with club options, and so far they have yet to make an official decision on any player, although we’ve heard strong indications on what they plan to do. It seems unlikely that the club will pick up the options for catchers Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder, or left handed pitcher Paul Maholm. Ronny Cedeno, on the other hand, could see his option picked up.
Doumit and Snyder are both in similar situations. Their option prices are probably far too much for their injury history and their struggles on defense over the last few years. Doumit’s option, if picked up, would guarantee him two years and $15.5 M. The buyout is $500 K. Snyder’s option only covers one year, and is for $6.75 M, with a $750 K buyout. That’s not totally unreasonable, although with Snyder missing the second half of the season with back issues, it might come as a big risk.
Both catchers profile as Type B free agents. If the Pirates decline the options, they still have the right to offer arbitration to each player. That would be the smart move if they wanted to keep Doumit, as it would amount to a one year deal at around $6 M if he accepted, compared to two years and $15.5 M under his option. As Type B free agents, Snyder and Doumit could land the Pirates draft picks in the 2012 draft. For this to happen, the Pirates would have to offer arbitration, the player would have to decline, and then the player would have to sign with another team.
Maholm and Cedeno are also in similar situations with their options. The option prices are reasonable for each player. Maholm’s option is for $9.75 M with a $750 K buyout. Cedeno’s option is for $3 M, with a $200 K buyout. Both players had good seasons in 2011. Maholm had a 3.66 ERA in 162.1 innings, while improving all of his secondary numbers from his 2010 season. Cedeno had a strong year defensively , and while he didn’t do much at the plate, the defense is more important at the shortstop position.
The two are similar in that there’s not really a wrong move the Pirates can make with their options. The option prices are reasonable, although the Pirates could get similar production for less on the free agent market. Picking up the options would be a move made out of convenience, guaranteeing that the Pirates have an answer at each position without having to worry about free agency. There are better options on the free agent market at each position, and some of those options would cost less than the amounts Maholm and Cedeno would be set to earn.
Neither player profiles as a ranked free agent, so the Pirates have no shot at compensation through the arbitration process. The Pirates could trade either player, with Maholm being the likely candidate. There’s the opinion floating around that Maholm’s trade value has been damaged by the announcement that the team won’t pick up his option. I’ve never bought in to this line of thinking. It assumes that the fans know just as much as opposing General Managers. It assumes that opposing General Managers only receive information through the channels that the fans receive information. If the Pirates informed Maholm, then Maholm’s agent knew. If Maholm’s agent knew, then he was probably already working on checking out the market for Maholm should he reach free agency. Basically, if Maholm knew, his agent knew, and if his agent knew, other teams probably knew.
Major League Baseball has seen players traded even after it’s been made clear that the team isn’t interested in retaining the player. It’s not uncommon. It happens every year. The best case scenario for the Pirates, in either situation, might be to pick up the options, even if they would rather pursue an upgrade. If they land the upgrade, they could try and work out a trade when the market thins out. It’s likely that they’d get a better trade return in January, after all of the available free agents have signed, rather than now, before free agency really kicks off. Worst case scenario, they have a rotation that includes Maholm and a free agent, and they have Ronny Cedeno either splitting time at shortstop, or serving as a backup off the bench.
In my prediction of the 2012 40-man roster, I have Maholm, Snyder, and Doumit being declined, with Ronny Cedeno’s option being picked up. Check back later for the official announcements on each move.