About Maholm’s club option

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The expectation for weeks has been that the Pirates were not planning on expected to take Paul Maholm’s club option for 2012. Therefore when team president Frank Coonelly said as much on a radio show yesterday, few heads should have turned.

That said, the Pirates have not already declined the $9.75 million club option, which is noted in this story I wrote on Wednesday. I explained why in that piece, but thought it was still worthwhile to go into a bit more detail here about why the Pirates aren’t making anything official yet, even if they know what they intend to do.

Go back two years to when the Pirates made a deal to acquire Aki Iwamura from the Rays. Tampa Bay had already decided it was not going to exercise Iwamura’s $4.85 million option in 2010, but it looked for a trade partner all of October before actually declining it. By finding a partner in the Pirates, the Rays were able to deal Iwamura (and his option) and get something in return.

For the Pirates, they were able to snag a player they wanted before that player hit the open market. The club thought the cost was a fair one and preferred not to have as many as 28 other clubs going after Iwamura in the free agent market.

Only those inside the Pirates’ front office know the level of external interest in Maholm, if there is any. But it is certainly in the club’s interest to leave that option on the table in case another team A) thinks $9.75 million is a fair cost for Maholm and B) doesn’t want to take the risk of letting Maholm go into the free agent market. If such a team exists, the Pirates — by leaving the option in play — can exercise it and then flip Maholm.

It probably would have benefited the Pirates not to have had Coonelly announce the team’s intentions — that certainly cost them leverage in a trade. But there remains the outside chance that Maholm still might not walk away for nothing. The Pirates have until five days after the World Series to make a deal, if a trade partner can be found. Otherwise, at that time the Pirates will decline Maholm’s option.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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