The Pirates have announced that they've extended qualifying offers to both Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano. Also, they've outrighted John Axford, Jeanmar Gomez and Chase d'Arnaud.
We already knew the Bucs planned to extend Martin an offer. The Liriano offer comes as a mild, and pleasant, surprise. Since we hadn't heard about the Pirates' plans, and since they didn't extend one to A.J. Burnett last year, I had thought they wouldn't with Liriano either. I thought they should with Liriano, and I'm glad they have -- perhaps the worst-case scenario from the Pirates' perspective (if not from the fans' perspective) is that Liriano accepts, in which case the Bucs get a good pitcher for a year for $15.3 million. Which shouldn't be any big deal. You can make the argument that he's not worth $15.3 million a year, but if he isn't, it's not by much. It's a good sign that the Pirates that they're willing to take this risk.
If Liriano doesn't accept, of course, the Pirates will get a draft pick if he signs elsewhere, assuming he signs before June. Add that to the pick they'll get if Martin leaves, and the draft next June will be all kinds of fun. The qualifying offers give the Pirates leverage to get Martin and Liriano to re-sign, too -- moreso in Liriano's case, since Martin is clearly worth far more than the draft pick is.
The Axford/Gomez/d'Arnaud news isn't surprising. The Bucs DFA'ed Axford and Gomez a week ago, and d'Arnaud is pretty clearly a Triple-A player. All three will be minor league free agents.