The Pirates on Wednesday officially declined Rod Barajas' 2013 contract option, making the catcher a free agent.
Barajas had a $3.5 million option for 2013 with no buyout. The Pirates also exercised Pedro Alvarez's option, worth $700,000.
The Pirates will now look for a catcher to play alongside Michael McKenry. They could bring Barajas back for a lower salary and Clint Hurdle has expressed interest in doing so, but the 37-year-old catcher said he would consider playing closer to home. His wife and seven children live in San Diego.
Barajas hit .206 with a .283 on-base percentage this season and threw out only 6 percent of potential base stealers.
McKenry, 27, hit .233 with a .320 on-base percentage and 12 home runs in 275 plate appearances.
Alvarez rebounded from a disappointing 2011 season to hit .244 with 30 home runs, though he did strike out 180 times. He could have waived his option if he was eligible for salary arbitration, but his service time fell a few weeks short.
Update 4:48 p.m.: I spoke to Neal Huntington about the coaching staff and option decisions. Here are the highlights:
On Jay Bell
"A tremendous passion, he's a great person. Brings energy, enthusiasm for helping players get better. Had a lot of success as a player himself after going through some initial struggles. He's got experience on the major league bench. He's gone back to the minor leagues. Just brings a sound process to his teaching of approach for hitting, plan for hitting, mechanics of hitting."
On Rick Sofield and taking over for Luis Silverio
"This is one of those that's probably going to paint Luis in a negative light and it shouldn't. As we went through the process of, how can we improve this major league team, Luis is a valuable piece. In Rick, we're going to bruing in a guy thatb brings that long-time minor league track record in terms of teaching and energy and positivity and knowledge and the ability to impact base runners and the ability to impact outfielders."
"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."
On Michael McKenry and the search for a catcher:
"In our minds the position of catcher has become almost like the position of running back in the NFL. You find a few elite guys who take 120 starts. More often than not, you're looking at more split time type situations. As Michael continues to evolve and develop, we feel very comfortable with him in a split time situation. Time will tell based on who we get to share with him and who we get to split time with him."
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