Pirates cut Milledge loose through non-tender
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The Pirates surprisingly cut Lastings Milledge loose, choosing not to tender their 2010 opening-day outfielder an offer through arbitration in advance of Major League Baseball's midnight Thursday deadline.
The team reached agreements on one-year contracts with two of their five major-league arbitration-eligible players, shortstop Ronny Cedeno and pitcher Jeff Karstens, and tendered offers to pitchers Ross Ohlendorf and Joel Hanrahan.
Three other players were removed from the 40-man roster via non-tenders: shortstop Argenis Diaz and pitchers Brian Burres and Donnie Veal. All of the non-tenders, including Milledge, are free agents, but Veal, recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery, is expected to re-sign with the Pirates on minor-league terms.
The team's announcement came 10 minutes before the deadline.
Milledge, 25, was acquired in the summer of 2009, along with Hanrahan, from Washington in the trade that sent outfielder Nyjer Morgan and reliever Sean Burnett to the Nationals. Milledge batted .277 with four home runs and 34 RBIs this past season, losing his everyday duty over the final two months. He displayed none of the negative off-field traits that were documented in New York and Washington, but his lack of power and erratic defense convinced management he was not a corner-outfield option.
"We spent a lot of time analyzing Lastings Milledge as compared with the potential alternatives for the expected role and determined it was worth further exploration of the alternatives," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "We remain open to continuing dialogue with Lastings."
The Pirates' internal options for right field include Garrett Jones, Ryan Doumit and John Bowker, all of whom played some first base in 2010, as well.
Milledge made $452,000 in 2010, and the arbitration process probably would have brought him a raise into the $1 million range.
Financial terms of Cedeno's contract agreement were not immediately available, but he made $1.125 million last year and probably will double that. His term also includes a club option for 2012. Karstens' salary will be $1.1 million, more than double his $475,000 of last year.
Cedeno and Karstens were second-time eligible for arbitration. Milledge, Ohlendorf ($439,000) and Hanrahan ($453,000) were first-timers.
By tendering an offer, a team retains its rights to the player and commits to going through the arbitration process. The team and player can settle amicably at any point. If they do not, each side submits a proposed salary figure Jan. 18. An arbitrator then decides the salary during a hearing, with those being conducted Feb. 1-21.
Cedeno, 27, batted .256 with eight home runs and 38 RBIs this past season, committing a team-high 18 errors. Management spoke of him through September as the projected everyday shortstop again in 2011, but that sentiment clearly has shifted since season's end, with the team pursuing outside options at shortstop through free agency or a trade.
Interest has been shown on the latter front for Minnesota's J.J. Hardy and the Tampa Bay Rays' Jason Bartlett, with the St. Louis Cardinals' suddenly available Brendan Ryan a possibility to be added to the list.
If another shortstop is acquired, Cedeno could shift to a middle-infield reserve role.
Karstens, 28, went 3-10 with a 4.92 ERA in 26 appearances, including 19 starts. Management expects to use him in a long-relief role next season.
NOTES -- Team president Frank Coonelly confirmed that the Pirates made an offer to free-agent pitcher Jorge De La Rosa before De La Rosa re-signed with Colorado for three guaranteed years at $31.5 million. De La Rosa's wish for a third-year player option -- which the Rockies granted at $11 million -- was a non-starter for the Pirates, Coonelly added. ... The 40-man roster is now at 36 heading into the Rule 5 draft next week. The Pirates have the No. 1 overall pick.
First Published December 3, 2010 12:24 am