Going into next season the Pirates hold 4 club options on players, Paul Maholm, Ronny Cedeno, Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder. The question is what should the Pirates do with these club options? Should they exercise or decline them? There is an argument to be made in each case here that the correct answer would be to decline and sign these players to new deals but for now I will ignore that option for now. So let’s take a look at each option individually.
The option is for 3 million dollars with a 200K buyout.
Case For: Cedeno is a good defensive SS posting a 5.4 UZR this season and because of this is valuable to the Pirates pitching staff. The organizational depth at SS is thin and letting Cedeno go would leave Brandon Wood, Pedro Ciriaco and Chase d’Arnaud none of whom appear ready to be a major league starting SS. The Pirates could go into free agency and look for a SS but looking back on their history of signing SS this is probably not a good idea, added to this fact is that after Reyes and Rollins the SS class is pretty thin. On a final note the 3 million dollar price tag is not a huge liability to the club and could easily be fit into even the Pirates tight budget.
Case Against: Despite his good overall defensive numbers, Cedeno has a tendency to be very inconsistent at the SS position often botching some fairly routine plays. He is also a below average hitter and does not appear capable of posting even a .700 OPS. His lapses in the field make him a poor fit to the Pirates pitch to contact staff and his poor offense is unacceptable because the Pirates need production from everywhere. d’Arnaud showed some positives this season and the team seemed to play its best when he and Presley were atop the lineup. Also if the Pirates chose the free agency route some reliable veterans like Carroll, Barmes and Gonzalez are available.
Verdict: The Pirates have bigger needs than the SS position which is usually weak hitting anyway and while d’Arnaud has not exactly lit it up in his limited time he has shown enough that it is not unreasonable that he could be a productive starter. Cedeno overall does not seem to fit the Hurdle mold and because of this it is likely time to move on. There is a small group of free agents the Pirates need to consider but at the end of the day letting d’Arnaud start at SS would not be the end of the world. The Pirates could then also opt to keep Ciriaco around and use him as a defensive replacement should d’Arnaud’s defense become an issue. It is also important to note that Jordy Mercer with a strong start in AAA could also end up pushing for playing time in the majors.
The option is 6.75 million with a 750K buyout.
Case For: To be honest at first glance there really isn’t a case for it but when you dig deeper you will see it could make some sense. Snyder has the reputation of being a strong defensive catcher and even though we haven’t seen much of that in Pittsburgh it is still worth something. He also has a pretty good bat which of course has value to the Pirates. With all that being said the case for his option being picked up comes down to two points: 1) It is more reasonable than Doumit’s and 2) The Pirates have no one who should be a starting major league catcher under contract for next season. And while free agency could remedy that after Ramon Hernandez, Snyder and Doumit are amongst the top of the catcher free agent class.
Case Against: In his year and a half with the Pirates he has done nothing to show that he deserves to have the option picked up. He missed most of this season with a back injury which itself is another strike against him. The strong defensive reputation he had when coming to the Pirates has not shown itself and while he has some power Snyder has a low batting average and more important he strikes out a good bit.
Verdict: The best case for picking up Snyder’s option is that the Pirates have no real alternative. Believe it or not that is almost enough in this case to warrant picking it up but to me his back injury and inability to return this season should ensure that his option will not be picked up. Since there is one more catcher to go I will hold off on what I feel the course of action should be here.
The option is 7.25 million for 2012 and 8.25 million for 2013 (must both be exercised) with a buyout of 500K
Case For: Of the 4 players I have here Doumit has he best case for his option being picked up and that is his production. His bat has been great this season. Outside of McCutchen and the red hot Derrek Lee, Doumit has been the Pirates best hitter this season and that is taking into account time he has missed due to injury. His 128 OPS+ this season is just terrific and definitely deserving of the money he would get in his option years. As an added bonus his defense behind the plate this season has improved.
Case Against: I could throw out quite a few things here, like how is defense is shaky, how he might be best served as a 1B/RF or even DH or quite a few other things but in reality the case against Doumit boils down to only one thing, his health. Throughout his career Doumit has struggled with injuries and committing 15.5 million dollars over 2 seasons to a guy, who plays such a taxing position and whom is so injury proned is a big gamble for the Pirates.
Verdict: If the 2012 option could be picked up independently of the 2013 one I think this is a slam dunk and Doumit’s option for next season would be picked up. Sadly that is not the case and we are forced between taking a huge risk or losing a very quality bat, which the Pirates have so few of. This is probably the toughest one here but the Pirates just can’t risk giving that kind of commitment to a guy who is so injury prone. Now what the Pirates should do about the catching position next season is simple, they have no choice but to use free agency to address the issue. Maybe they are able to resign Doumit and Snyder but if not players like Kelly Shoppach and Jose Molina are available. If all of this fails the only thing the Pirates can do is give the job to Eric Fryer and hope for the best.
The option is 9.75 million with a 750K buyout.
Case For: Maholm is a very solid and dependable pitcher. It is almost a certainty that he will give you 25+ starts next season and that is tough to find. He is a veteran presence who could help build a bridge to the Pirates young pitching talent. Going into next season the Pirates have Morton, McDonald and Karstens essentially locked into 3 spots. The other 2 spots appear to be between Lincoln, Correia and Ohlendorf. In my mind that is just simply not good enough and another pitcher needs to be added. Now due to Owens, Locke, Wilson, Morris and McPherson all possibly being able to contribute next season the Pirates don’t need to commit to anyone long term. It also helps that Maholm is a lefty and there is no lefty in amongst the 6 players I listed as battling for a spot.
Case Against: The case against picking up his option is quite simple: Maholm isn’t worth it and that money could be better spent elsewhere.
Verdict: While I concede that Maholm probably isn’t worth 9.75 million for next season the facts of the matter are that the Pirates should pick up his option. The Pirates already have 750K invested in him next year (buyout) meaning they would have to pay an additional 9 million dollars to keep him. The rotation obviously needs an upgrade for next season as letting Ohlendorf compete for a spot is not ideal. What kind of pitcher can the Pirates realistically get for 9 million dollars to upgrade that rotation? The answer is probably no one because even if they identify someone, competition for pitching is always fierce and the Pirates are unlikely to get the guy. He is the type of pitcher the Pirates need to round out their rotation for next season. Having Maholm become a fourth lock and Correia and Lincoln battling for the 5th spot is a much more attractive option than having both of those guys in the rotation.