When free agency begins Saturday, the Pirates will find themselves in the same position as a year ago -- searching for a catcher.
The Pirates Wednesday officially declined catcher Rod Barajas' 2013 contract option, making him a free agent. Barajas had a $3.5 million option for '13 with no buyout.
"As we looked at the cost of picking up his option compared to what we might be able to get for less or similar dollars on the free-agent market, or what we might be able to acquire in a trade, we felt it was in our best interest to decline the option," general manager Neal Huntington said.
Barajas made $4 million this season. He hit .206 with a .283 on-base percentage this season and threw out 6 percent of potential base-stealers.
The Pirates also exercised Pedro Alvarez's '13 contract option, worth $700,000.
The Pirates will look for a catcher to team with Michael McKenry. They could bring back Barajas, 37, for a lower salary, something Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle have said was a possibility, but Barajas has said he might consider playing closer to his San Diego home.
"Last year, being in [Los Angeles, where he played for the Dodgers], I know how nice it can be being close to home," Barajas said late last season. "It's definitely something that I'm going to consider."
McKenry, 27, hit .233 with a .320 on-base percentage and 12 homers in 275 plate appearances. Huntington compared the modern catcher's position to the way NFL teams now use running backs: A couple of studs get most of the work, but most teams use a time-share.
"As Michael continues to evolve and develop, we feel very comfortable with him in a split-time situation," Huntington said. "Time will tell based on who we get to share with him."
The free-agent catching market lacks a wide selection.
Alvarez rebounded from a disappointing '11 season to hit .244 with 30 home runs, though he struck out 180 times. He could have waived his option if he were eligible for salary arbitration, but his service time fell short.
NOTES -- Class AA Altoona manager P.J. Forbes will not return to the organization, according to a report Wednesday night by the Altoona Mirror. ... The Pirates also released reliever Hisanori Takahashi.