Pirates retain Karstens, Cedeno
By the end of this past season, Lastings Milledge had fallen out of the Pirates' everyday lineup. Thursday, he fell completely out of their plans, probably for good.
Milledge, who was in his first year of arbitration eligibility, became a free agent when the Pirates did not tender him an offer by the midnight deadline.
The Pirates last night did sign shortstop Ronny Cedeno and pitcher Jeff Karstens to contracts to avoid salary arbitration. The club also tendered offers to arbitration-eligible pitchers Ross Ohlendorf and Joel Hanrahan.
The Pirates non-tendered three players — pitchers Donnie Veal and Brian Burres and infielder Argenis Diaz — who were not yet arbitration-eligible. They are now free agents.
"We have made the difficult decision to not offer contracts (to) four quality young men," general manager Neal Huntington said. "In each case, there was serious consideration to the process and in each case, we felt this decision was in the best interest of the organization."
Huntington is optimistic he can re-sign Veal and Burres, and already has made that known to both camps. Veal, a former Rule 5 pickup, is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Burres made 13 starts for the Pirates this past season.
Diaz, 23, likely will not be back, squeezed out by the younger wave of infielders in the Pirates' farm system.
Milledge, 25, began 2010 as the Opening Day starter in left field. He was shifted to right after Jose Tabata was called up, then was demoted to a platoon role due to his poor run production (34 RBI in 113 games) and defensive struggles.
Huntington is open to trying to re-sign Milledge, who made $452,000 this year. But attempts to work out a one-year deal before last night's deadline yielded little progress.
"It was a tough negotiation," Huntington said. "As the negotiations went on, we began to explore alternatives. We want to continue to explore those alternatives."
The non-tenders create four openings on the 40-man roster, which soon could be filled by free-agent signings.
Cedeno, who was in his final year of arbitration eligibility, got a one-year contact with a club option for 2012. Cedeno is guaranteed $2 million under the deal.
But even with a new deal, Cedeno, 27, is not a lock to be the Opening Day starter next summer. Cedeno made $1.125 million this past season, when he hit .256 with 38 RBI in 139 games.
The Pirates have been seeking an upgrade at shortstop via a trade, and likely will intensify their search during next week's MLB winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Karstens will make $1.1 million next year, nearly tripling his salary from this past season.
Last season, Karstens went 3-10 with a 4.92 ERA in 26 outings. The right-hander's key asset is versatility — Karstens made 19 starts and also handled a variety of roles in the bullpen.
This is the first time Ohlendorf and Hanrahan are eligible for arbitration.
If they do not sign contracts by Jan. 18, they and the team will exchange salary figures for arbitration.
Arbitration hearings will be held Feb. 1-21.
Ohlendorf, 28, went 1-11 with a 4.07 ERA this year, when injuries limited him to 21 starts. He made $453,000.
Hanrahan, 29, is a candidate to become the full-time closer in 2011. This past season, he went 4-1 with a 3.62 ERA and six saves. The righty made $439,000.
Last month, the Pirates cut ties with three players — Andy LaRoche, Zach Duke and Delwyn Young — who were arbitration eligible. Duke was traded to Arizona; Young and LaRoche became free agents.
On. Nov. 3, reliever Wil Ledezma, who's in his second year of eligibility, avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Pirates.
Notes: During an online chat yesterday, president Frank Coonelly said the Pirates made a firm offer to free-agent pitcher Jorge de la Rosa, who this week re-signed with Colorado. Coonelly indicated de la Rosa's demand for a third-year player option, which he got from the Rockies, was a deal-breaker for the Pirates.