The Pirates cut ties with Jeff Karstens, traded Chris Resop and signed Charlie Morton to a one-year deal, the team announced late Friday night in advance of Major League's Baseball non-tender deadline.
Those moves preceded the team's announcement they tendered contract offers to their remaining five arbitration-eligible players.
The Pirates offered contracts to Joel Hanrahan, Garrett Jones, James McDonald, Neil Walker and Gaby Sanchez. By tendering the contracts, the Pirates committed to entering arbitration with them. If the player and club cannot agree on a contract, the two sides submit a proposed one-year salary to a panel of arbitrators, which must select one figure or the other after hearing arguments from both sides. Those hearings take place in February.
The Pirates can also trade these players.
Karstens, who was arbitration eligible and earned $3.1 million last season, became a free agent at midnight after he was non-tendered by the Pirates.
"A tough decision for us as an organization," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We're grateful for what Jeff has done on and off the field."
The club designated Karstens for assignment earlier Friday to make room on the 40-man roster for newly acquired catcher Russell Martin.
Huntington said the Pirates tried to negotiate a new deal with Karstens in advance of the non-tender deadline, and, when that failed, they tried to find a trading partner.
Despite letting him go, the Pirates will try to sign Karstens in free agency, Huntington said.
"Our hope is that the door is still ajar and he would entertain an opportunity to return to the Pirates," he said. "We'd still like to have him back."
On Twitter, Karstens left the door open for a return.
"You never know what may happen! I could come back," he wrote, "but to all my teammates I wish you and fans of Pittsburgh nothing but the best!"
The Pirates acquired Karstens, 30, in a trade with the Yankees that sent Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to New York in 2008.
Though Karstens led the team with a 3.38 ERA in '11, he battled a couple injuries last season that kept him off the mound and limited his effectiveness. He made 15 starts and four relief appearances, finishing with 5-4 with a 3.97 ERA.
Morton, rehabilitating from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery, agreed to a one-year deal worth $2 million, according to a source. He made $2,445,000 in '12, his first season of arbitration, but made only nine starts before his June surgery. He will not return until June at the earliest.
In dealing Resop to the Oakland Athletics, the Pirates acquired minor-league pitcher Zach Thornton.
They also traded infielder Yamaico Navarro to the Baltimore Orioles for minor-league pitcher Jhondaniel Medina.
The Pirates claimed Resop, 30, off waivers in '10, and he became a fixture in the Pirates bullpen. He signed a one-year, $850,000 deal last offseason to avoid arbitration.
He had a 3.91 ERA last season, pitching 722/3 innings in 61 appearances.
Michael Sanserino: email@example.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published December 1, 2012 5:00 AM