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Pirates bid farewell to four of their veterans

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011

When his phone rang Monday morning, pitcher Paul Maholm already knew what Pirates general manager Neal Huntington was calling to say.

Maholm was told the Pirates chose not to pick up his $9.75 million contract option for 2012, making the left-hander a free agent for the first time. The team also opted to decline its options for shortstop Ronny Cedeno and catchers Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder.

"It was not a surprise," said Maholm, the Pirates' first-round draft pick in 2003. "I'm looking forward to making the decision about where I want to play next."

Snyder's option was worth $6.75 million, and Cedeno's was for $3 million. Doumit had two club options, worth $7.25 million in 2012 and $8.25 million in 2013, which would have triggered simultaneously.

Each player will receive a buyout — Maholm and Snyder get $750,000 apiece, Doumit gets $500,000 and Cedeno gets $200,000.

By declining the options, the Pirates avoid paying $32.8 million in salary to the four veterans. The team's final payroll in 2011 was $52.3 million.

"In each case, we evaluated our internal options, the market for trades and free agents, and decided our best option was to decline," Huntington said. "It's a calculated gamble, but it's worth taking a shot."

Maholm, 29, has been a workhorse, making at least 26 starts in each of the past six seasons. His career record is 53-73 with a 4.36 ERA and a 1.294 WHIP.

Last season, Maholm missed the final six weeks because of a sore shoulder. It was his first time on the disabled list, although Maholm had battled knee injuries the previous two years.

"The day I was put on the DL, I realized my time in Pittsburgh was done," Maholm said.

Huntington said he is willing to discuss a new contract with each of the four players. Free agents can begin signing with teams Thursday.

Maholm said he'll talk with the Pirates, but he also wants to see what other teams will offer. ranks Maholm as the 31st-best free agent overall and No. 10 among starting pitchers.

"We're not going to close any doors," Maholm said. "We'll hear what the Pirates have to say and see how it all plays out."

Doumit, 30, a second-round pick in 1999, also said he expected the Pirates to bypass his option. He did not sound optimistic about re-signing with the club.

"I enjoyed my time in Pittsburgh," Doumit said via a text message. "Now it's time to move on."

Snyder did not return a phone call from the Tribune-Review. Cedeno, who spends the offseason in his native Venezuela, was unavailable for comment.

Cedeno, 28, hit .249 with 32 RBI and a .636 OPS. About four hours after the Pirates declined his option, Cedeno was named a finalist for a Gold Glove Award.

The Pirates will not pursue blue-chip free agents Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes. If Huntington cannot come up with another shortstop, Chase d'Arnaud — who hit .217 and made nine errors in 48 games as a rookie this year — could head to spring training as the favorite to inherit the position.

Recently, d'Arnaud got good news from Pirates doctors after he injured his right hand during a game in the Dominican Winter League.

"There is no break, no major damage," Huntington said.

An infielder stepped on d'Arnaud's hand as he was sliding into a base. D'Arnaud was examined by doctors in Pittsburgh, and he will be shut down for another week or so. He is not expected to rejoin his DWL team, Toros del Este, which is managed by Pirates minor league manager Dean Treanor.

Notes: Infielders Steve Pearce and Brandon Wood, and pitchers Brian Burres, Kevin Hart and Aaron Thompson were outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis. Each has the option to declare free agency. Pearce, who was not likely to be tendered a contract before being removed from the 40-man roster, almost certainly will depart. ... Neil Walker is among the three finalists at second base for a Gold Glove Award. Winners will be announced Tuesday.

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