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10/31/11 12:17 PM ET

Pirates decline options on four players

Cedeno, Maholm, Doumit, Snyder all become free agents

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates announced on Monday that they have declined to exercise 2012 club options on shortstop Ronny Cedeno, left-hander Paul Maholm and catchers Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder. As a result, all four players become free agents.

Teams had until the end of the day on Monday to make decisions regarding contractual options.

Though the four players can begin negotiating with other clubs beginning at 12:01 a.m. ET on Thursday, general manager Neal Huntington said the Pirates have not closed the door on the possibility of any of the four returning.

"We just felt like our best course of action was to decline the options, try to keep the doors of communication open, see how the market plays out, see if we end up being their landing spot, see if they end up being our best target," Huntington said. "If they head in a different direction, we wish them the best."

If the Pirates end up negotiating with any of these four players later in the offseason, it would be on a contract worth less than the options just declined. The Pirates will have competition, however. The free-agent market is shallow in catching, shortstop and pitching options, which will drive up the cost of those players that are available.

The Pirates will also explore trade opportunities to fill these areas of needs.

"We've got to be willing to take some chances," Huntington said. "We've got to be willing to make some tough financial decisions. We'll see how it plays out this offseason, but we're confident that we'll end up with a good option."

The only semi-surprise in Monday's announcement involved the decision not to exercise Cedeno's $3 million option. Huntington would not divulge when the club decided it would look elsewhere for a starting shortstop, but the cost to retain Cedeno did not seem like a steep one when compared to the other options available.

The Pirates do not have an obvious internal replacement for Cedeno, though Chase d'Arnaud would likely step into an everyday role if the Pirates cannot find another fit externally. The Pirates will not make a run at Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins, the top two shortstops available on the free-agent market.

The catcher's spot is also a big question mark for the Pirates, whose other Major League options (Michael McKenry, Jason Jaramillo, Matt Pagnozzi) seem better suited for a backup role. While the Pirates would like to prioritize defense in their search for another catcher, Huntington noted that "sometimes you have to take what the market gives you."

Snyder's 2012 club option was worth $6.75 million, while Doumit's would have cost the Pirates $15.5 million over a two-year period. Maholm held a $9.75 million option.

Declining all four options will cost the Pirates $2.2 million, as each player had a buyout cost written into his contract.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.