The Pittsburgh Pirates had their best year since 2004, but that's not necessarily a good thing. It's more like making the best sand-and-cabbage sandwich you've made in years. It was still a 90-loss season for the Pirates, even though as late as July 25th, they were tied with the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the NL Central.
So changes needed to be made, and the option axe fell quickly and often. The Pirates declined the 2012 options on four players: infielder Ronny Cedeno, starting pitcher Paul Maholm, and catchers Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder.
If the Pirates had kept all four, they would have spent $26.75 million on the quartet, which is certainly well above the collective market value of the four players. Maholm had his best year for the Pirates since 2008, but his option was for $9.75 million -- a lot to pay if you're hoping that his decreased hits-allowed rate is a repeatable skill. His walk and strikeout rates have remained remarkably consistent since he entered the league in 2005.
Doumit will attract a lot of interest as a switch-hitting utility player who can catch, though it's possible that a team might try him as a starting catcher again. He hurt his left ankle this year, limiting him to 77 games, but he hit .303/.353/.477 when he played. His option was for $7.25 million.
Snyder was almost as productive when he played, but he missed even more time this season because of back problems that required surgery in June. His option was for $6.75 million, and though he won't make that much again, he'll attract a lot of interest if he's healthy.
That leaves Cedeno, whose $3 million option wasn't prohibitive, but it was too much for a player who hit .254/.297/.367 over his Pirates' career. His fielding divided scouts and advanced fielding metrics alike, so it's an open question whether or not his glove can carry a sub-.300 on-base percentage. If this were a perfect world, he'd team up with Yuniesky Betancourt and fight crime. As is, now you have to worry about your favorite team signing both of them.