Neal Huntington: Pirates Retaining Paul Maholm's Rights As Long As Possible. So Give Us Stuff!

PITTSBURGH - AUGUST 06: Paul Maholm #28 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the San Diego Padres during the game on August 6, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

I got a kick out of Jenifer Langosch's latest article on the Paul Maholm situation. I don't usually copy the lede in a blockquote, as some folks see that as poor form, so Ms. Langosch, feel free to email me if this bothers you. But:

Though the Pirates do not plan on paying Paul Maholm $9.75 million -- the value of the left-hander's 2012 club option -- to pitch for them next year, the club has still not entirely ruled out that option being exercised.

That was the statement provided by general manager Neal Huntington on Wednesday, when he noted that keeping the option in play allows the Pirates to retain some leverage in case a trade partner emerges this month.

Got that? I had to read it twice to make sure I understood. Basically, Frank Coonelly announced earlier today that the Pirates weren't going to pick up Maholm's option. Neal Huntington then piped in to say that, although it's still clear to everyone paying attention that the Pirates don't want to pick up the option, they will retain the right to do so as long as they can, just in case there's some team out there that's willing to pay shiny prospects for Maholm in order to prevent some other team from getting to him first. Replace "entirely" from Langosch's first sentence with "officially," and I think you get the idea. My take is that the Pirates have "entirely" or mostly, ruled out picking up the option. What they have not done is officially made that decision, and they will not do so until they have to.

Basically, this enables the Pirates to control Maholm's rights for a couple more weeks until they officially have to decline the option in November. That means that if, for example, there are several teams willing to pay the $9.75 million option, they can negotiate with the Pirates to trade for Maholm and pick up the option themselves, thus keeping Maholm off the free-agent market. Of course, the only way that will be of any benefit to the Pirates is if a lot of teams decide Maholm's option is under market value and therefore worth trading for, in which case it would make sense for the Pirates, who also need pitching next year, to just go ahead and pick up the option themselves. Which is, as you know, what I think they should do anyway.

Essentially, then, this doesn't refute what Coonelly said earlier today.

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