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Pirates deal out qualifying offers to veterans Martin, Liriano

Tribune-Review
| Monday, November 3, 2014 4:45 p.m.
PTRBucs02110414
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Pirates catcher Russell Martin talks with pitcher Francisco Liriano during a game against the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 17, 2014, at PNC Park.

Bidding to keep two of their best players from bolting as free agents, the Pirates on Monday gave catcher Russell Martin and pitcher Francisco Liriano each a $15.3 million qualifying offer.

Liriano and Martin have until Nov. 10 to decide whether to accept the offers. If they decline their qualifying offers and sign elsewhere, the Pirates will get two picks after the first round in the June draft as compensation.

Even if Martin and Liriano turn down their qualifying offers, the Pirates will continue to try to re-sign both players.

“Our plan is to continue to keep the door open as long as we can,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “If we end up being their best fit, that’s good news. If we’re not, we’ll turn the page and work to continue to make the club better.”

Twelve players got qualifying offers before Monday night’s deadline. This is the first time the Pirates have made a qualifying offer.

Since the process began in 2012, no free agent has accepted a qualifying offer.

“There’s always a first … and maybe a second,” Huntington said.

Of the 22 players who received qualifying offers over the past two years, 17 ended up signing with new teams.

Martin and Liriano are rated among the top dozen free agents, so each likely will have several offers. The Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays reportedly are among the teams eyeing Martin.

The agents for Martin and Liriano did not respond to requests for comment.

Martin, 31, most likely will reject his offer. When he signed a two-year, $17 million contract with the Pirates in November 2012, Martin said he eschewed a longer deal to better position himself to re-enter the free agent market.

If Martin departs, it would leave Chris Stewart and Tony Sanchez as the top catchers on the roster. Huntington called that “a starting point” and said he then would explore the free-agent and trade markets for a better option.

Liriano, who turned 31 on Oct. 26, went 23-18 with a 3.20 ERA in his two seasons with the Pirates.

“The won-loss record wasn’t as (good) this year, but when he was healthy he threw the ball very well,” Huntington said. “We feel good about a one-year, $15.3 million deal. If he hits the free-agent market, we’ll stay engaged and do what we can to bring him back.”

The qualifying offer likely is tempting for Liriano, who has made about $19.5 million in his nine-year career. However, he would prefer a multi-year contract and there’s a decent chance of him getting such a deal elsewhere.

The Pirates did not make qualifying offers to their other two free agents, pitcher Edinson Volquez and infielder Clint Barmes. Huntington said he would like to re-sign both. Near the end of the season, Barmes and Volquez said they would be open to re-signing with the Pirates. Volquez, who made $5 million this year, is seeking a multiyear contract. Barmes made $2 million as a backup and appeared in only 48 games.

Notes: Huntington said right-hander Jameson Taillon is in the early stages of a throwing program as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery. … Huntington said the Pirates have not decided whether to allow outfielder Gregory Polanco to play for Leonoes del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League. According to a recent report out of the Dominican, Escogido general manager Moises Alou said Polanco will join his team in December. … Utilityman Chase d’Arnaud and pitchers John Axford and Jeanmar Gomez were outrighted, which made them all minor league free agents. … Huntington said infielder Pedro Alvarez still is recovering from a foot injury, so his offseason workout regimen remains undetermined.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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