Pirates Extend Qualifying Offers to Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano

Today is the deadline for teams to extend a qualifying offer to departing free agents. For those who aren’t familiar with the process, a qualifying offer is the only way a team can get draft pick compensation from departing free agents. This year, teams have to issue a one year, $15.3 M deal. After that is offered, the player has a week to accept or decline. If the player accepts, the team gets him back on that one year deal. If the player declines, then signs with another team, the former team gets a compensation pick after the first round.

As expected, Russell Martin received a qualifying offer. This isn’t a surprise, due to the fact that we’ve known for weeks that the Pirates would be making an offer to Martin. There’s also the fact that Martin will be highly sought after, with teams like the Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, Rangers, and as we learned today, the Blue Jays being interested. The Pirates will still pursue Martin, but if he signs elsewhere, they would get compensation for him leaving.

The team also extended a qualifying offer to Francisco Liriano. That move was up in the air, since we didn’t hear any rumblings from the team on what they would decide. There was also the fact that they didn’t make an offer to A.J. Burnett last year, leading to speculation that they wouldn’t make an offer to Liriano this year. As I wrote last night, those two were in different situations. Liriano is believed to be looking for a multi-year deal, so the idea that he will accept a one year deal doesn’t seem likely to happen.

Both Martin and Liriano will have a week to accept or decline their offers. My guess is that both will decline and the Pirates will end up with two compensation picks. That’s assuming the Pirates don’t bring either player back, which might be a safe assumption based on the interest Martin is drawing, and the Pirates’ approach to adding starting pitchers, which doesn’t involve spending a lot of money.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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who were those idiots on this board who kept insisting they wouldn’t give a QO to either player? I don’t see them on this board admitting they were wrong……


FWIW, the Pirates QO to Liriano wasn’t the most curious extended.

Michael Cuddyer? 36 on opening day and played 49 games last year…and the 14th best team in a league locks him in?

David Robertson? 15.3 million offered to the closer on the eighth best team in a league?

Lukas Sutton

If Cuddyer rejects that he needs his head checked.


Good start to what promises to be one heck of an interesting off season for the pirates. Just waiting to see if it’s going to be “good” interesting or “bad” interesting. Can’t wait for those sping games to crank up in bradenton. See ya there tim!


It was a no-brainer to extend a QO to both Martin and Liriano. If either or both return on 1-year deals, the Bucs will get excellent players on reasonable, short-term deals. If they leave, the Bucs will get valuable draft picks and will free up money to spend on other players (preferably including a long-term deal with Polanco). 1-year contracts are almost never a bad thing, and $15.3 is just not that much money these days for players like Martin and Liriano. My guess is that both players take other, long-term deals. Players do not get many chances to take long-term, high-dollar deals in their careers, and this is their chance


No doubt Martin moves on but I also think Liriano also finds a new home . It is not the Pirates MO to pay out 3 years close to 40 Mil . They may get Volquez to stay but my guess is another couple reclamation projects are on the way . We just don’t know who they are and probably won’t until the market is set .

Chuck Conner

Am I missing something? Other than Vogelsong, what reclamation project did KC or Giants have in starting pitchers. I have not researched this, so someone can dispute or help me understand how spending less on pitching get you to the WS.


So That’s the minimum QO. Now did the Pirates offer the bare minimum? or did they offer more like a 2 yr/$30 to any/either of Martin/Liriano.

Paul Krzywicki

These moves can only be looked at as a positive development. Worst-case scenario, we get 2 picks.


Respectfully, that’s not the worst-case.

I’m wary of entrusting 15-20% of a small-market team’s budget on a SP pitcher who’s topped 165 IP once in his ten year career.

I kind of think the best-case scenario for the Pirates is that Liriano rejects the QO and we get a 2nd or 3rd round pick for him.


Liriano likely will decline the QO for the same or similar reasons that everyone of the previous 22 players who received QOs declined them (that’s 0 for 22) – not guaranteed that he will decline, but likely. If he declines and signs with someone else before the June draft, the Pirates will receive a sandwich pick (that’s the round immediately following the reduced 1st round) regardless with whom Liriano might sign. See CBA, Article XX(B)(4) (please let me know if you have different information concerning the compensation that the team losing a QO free agent receives). I am not sure that holding a QO contract with Liriano for one year or less cripples the team financially, but even if it does, Liriano can be traded. If the Pirates are going to be good, they are going to have to be built, apparently, on less expensive talent, largely drafted talent, or talent acquired by trading other good young players. IMO, the minimal overall financial risk of Liriano accepting a QO that the Pirates can’t handle (through a trade of Liriano or otherwise) is worth the benefit of a likely additional near first round draft pick.

Chuck Conner

these same people that cried because Burnett didn’t get a QO, are crying because Liriano did. Losing 15 mil for one yr is better than signing him to 3-4 for 40. It’s going to cost the Pirates 15.3 mil for possibly 15-20 starts (maybe more/less) If he does get another offer, than the insurance (at least 2nd rd draft choice) is worth it. My problem is without Martin, how many wild pitches will Liriano and staff have? Bottom line, Pirates cannot afford (will not) any other pitcher equal to Liriano.


I agree, if we lose Martin, I think they have to get at least an above average defender behind the plate and if they have to accept below average offense from that position that is probably a trade off which has to be accepted.


Or…maybe the marginal FA’s of this class learn from Drew, Morales, and Cruz and takes the QO’s. To assume that a 1/4 of last year’s class got buried in free agency and the folks from this go-around are oblivious to that is wrong. Off the top of my head, in spite of the 0/22 run, I will easily predict that between Cuddyer, Robertson, and Liriano…at least two will take the QO’s.

And the cost of Liriano isn’t minimal. It’s assuming someone pitching 11% of innings is worth 17% of payroll. Sure, if you’re a big market team, you can throw that risk out there for a top of the rotation arm. (Which, strikingly, as a proportion of their budgets….the Bucs would be spending more for Liriano than the Dodgers are spending for Clayton Kershaw) The Pirates aren’t that type of organization…and Liriano, surely, isn’t that kind of arm. As a small market club they’re forced to buy low.

Assuming Liriano can be traded has its issues. First, we can forego the obvious and hope he’s not on the DL. Then, let’s go to the next stage and assume there’s a team willing to part take on 7+ million of salary without getting the ability to issue a QO. After that, let’s wish there isn’t another Bucs pitcher on the DL and shipping off LIriano doesn’t deplete the rotation to the point where the season is, by default, forfeited. After all that…maybe Huntington can pull off a deal that doesn’t resemble the Jason Bay trade.

There are too many red flags with the Liriano offering…note, I have no issues with the Martin QO. He’s going to go and I think that obvious. Getting something for him is a good move. Liriano? Not so much. The best thing that can happen to the Pirates in this situation is that Frankie and his agents overvalue him as much as the Pirates have and reject the offer.


Without going into a lot of details, you and I simply evaluate the risk / potential benefit of getting a near first round draft pick differently. I don’t think you can let talent walk out the door, get nothing in return and expect to develop a better organization and team – that’s what the Pirates did for years during the losing streak. Does your apparent misunderstanding of the CBA not change your risk/benefit analysis? BTW, what was wrong with the Jason Bay trade? I wish we had Brandon Moss and Bryan Morris now. (Plus we received two other prospects). There was nothing wrong with the trade, the problems arose after the trade concerning how the players were developed and handled thereafter.


I also think reasonable attempts should be made to get compensation for talent. $15.3M is a risk Liriano isn’t worth. I could be absolutely wrong…and we’ll find out in the next few days, but I don’t see him rejecting this offer. If he doesn’t, the team is left with a financial albatross. A short-term albatross? Yes, but one nonetheless. That money could be better spent in other places…and, I think, spend your resources wisely is the mantra of small-market teams.
I agree with your line of reasoning when it comes to player like Martin. By all means, he’s going to walk and you get what you can for him, if he were to accept the QO…so be it…you’re get him at fair market value, but not overpaying as would be the case with Liriano.

As for the Bay trade, what was wrong with it? It was that the compensation received never replaced what was given up. Sure, the players may have been well-regarded…and, yes, some of them may be performing well now, but they never contributed to the club in any meaningful way. The Pirates gave up one of the top OF’s in baseball who was under control for an additional 1 1/3 seasons. In that time he amassed a 7.1 WAR. The four players received for him played 598 games for the Pirates and, cumulatively, racked up a -1.3 WAR. The Jason Bay trade was a colossal failure for the Pirates.


You are not distinguishing between (1) the trade itself and (2) the subsequent personnel decisions which were made by the Pirates concerning the players who were acquired in the trade. To be fair and equivalent, how would the trade in which they acquired Jason Bay (plus Oliver Perez) for Brian Giles have looked if the Pirates had not kept Bay in the same way they did not keep Moss and Morris? If the trades alone are evaluated in the same way in both cases they were both excellent trades – the Pirates simply failed subsequently to develop two very good and talented players they received in the second trade – Moss and Morris.

IC Bob

Heres the point even if the players accepted (and they will not). Your payroll is only inflated for one year and it affords the Pirates to go for it. What the Pirates have to avoid is the long term bad contracts. The 5 years 60 million deals when the guy gets hurt or never lives up to the contract. The Bucs can’t afford a jason Kendall deal where 30 days in your asking yourself what have I done for the next 5 years.


And the distinction is…the Pirates can only hope that Liriano rejects. If not, they’ve committed >15% of their payroll to a pitcher who has only topped 165 IP once in a decade of pitching. That’s really rolling the dice for a small market team. That’s the difference between making a move for someone at the trade deadline and being forced to stand pat for economic reasons.

And Liriano doesn’t have much reason to turn it down. What’s the best he can get in FA? 3/33? Makes more sense for him to take the offer, hope for health, and roll the dice next season.

For the Bucs, if he does accept, they better hope he does something he never has…Be lights out and top 200 innings. Otherwise, they’d be better off using that money to grab two guys to fill the open holes in the rotation.


I just wonder if this signals that they don’t see much value in free agency this offseason, therefore overpaying liriano for this year isn’t a bad decision? I’m a bit surprised they qo’d liriano as well and figure there’s a 50/50 shot he signs it


Could be. But there are always a ton of guys on the scrap heap. The team could get three for what they’ve offered Liriano. Anderson, Morrow, McCarthy, and…now…Burnett…top the list. And, heck, you can even throw Volquez on the list.

The Bucs are taking a risk. If Liriano finally lives up to his promise, starts 34 games and goes 210 innings…they’ve made a steal. If he does what he has over the past decade, they’ve over-committed and lost all flexibility.


I’m thinking maybe those guys aren’t projected to go as cheap as being written. Maybe the yanks get mcarthy signed.. not sure.. just trying to figure out what the thought process would be.. i can’t see them projecting 200 innings


They might not go Volquez cheap, but…with two holes in the rotation…Liriano takes up 15 million. If he pitches very, very well, then one of the group of Pimentel, Sadler, or Cumpton has to step up because there’s no money for another starter. Without the commitment to Liriano, I think the Bucs could afford two of the aforementioned and still have the trio of AAAA pitchers in reserve.

I love Frankie…really do…but I don’t $15.3 million love him. He’ll put up respectable numbers for some team next year. I just hope it’s not the Pirates. To be taking up that much payroll, he has to be lights out.

Heck, the amount the Bucs QO’d him for is more than Cutch will make in any of the next 4 seasons. I’m all for the Pirates coming out on the winning side of the contract, but…as a small market team…they can’t afford to get fair market value..

The Martin QO? All for it. He’s going to reject. Maybe the resign him…most likely not. However, in that case, they get something for nothing. Here that’s not the case.


I can’t see him worth that type of loot either.. maybe they can get Volquez signed on a reasonable deal if liriano stays?. I guess it at least avoids the possibility that they are left empty handed with cash to spend..


I’d love to see Volquez come back for 2/18 – 2/20.

Split the difference and 9.5M/year. I don’t see how the Bucs can afford 25M next year for Volquez/Liriano.

Realistically, they can…but there’s nothing left over to address the needs of catcher or 1B…or to have any cushion for deadline trades.

Huntington has made some made some really good moves in his tenure…and some really bad ones. This QO falls into the latter category.


No doubt.. just wonder the reasoning behind the decision


No doubt.. just wonder the reasoning behind the decision


It’s a heck of a gamble. And might be as much as a result of losing Burnett last year as hubris.

With a small market team, it’s okay to roll the dice if you think you can get a guy on the skids at a low price who can play at PPP (past peak performance). LIriano has never been a $15 million dollar pitcher. Offering him that much is thinking he’s going to exceed it.

How much higher can you go than that? $15M is easily #2 pay on a large market team. With the Pirates budget constraints, if Liriano takes the offer, he’d better finish in the top 3 for the Cy Young award.

John Lease

And that’s better than a 1st round pick how?


The most likely landing spots for Liriano on a free agent deal (Boston/Chicago) are teams with a protected first-round pick. Sure, there’s a chance a team outside the worst ten might sign him, but I think it’s unrealistic. The only way they do, IMO, is if they’ve already signed a marque FA and LIriano costs them a lower selection.


Where can I find a complete list of MLB players that have received qualifying offers?


Any idea on how liriano compares to santana and Jimenez going into free agency last year? I’d hate to see liriano not sign then get hosed due to the draft pick attached to him


draft class is very strong in pitching, particularly from the college ranks. There are some interesting high school position prospects and its almost devoid of worthwhile college position players.


Good to hear, tx. I’m hoping for college arms this time around

Bee Wuu

I would love to see both accept. Two reasons: They will help the Bucs.
To see what else the front office does, spends, to improve the team.


There is no way on Earth that Martin accepts. No sane person is trading $60 million and security for $15 million on a show me deal.


Agreed, the only way Martin accepts is if he trips and breaks his legs as he runs for phone to tell his tell his agent to reject the QO.

Liriano, I think, will accept…or, he should. I’m never shocked at how teams will throw money where it doesn’t need to go, but I’d be surprised if anyone is will to put 30+ million into an oft-injured pitcher and surrender a draft pick.


I I’d probably rather have liriano for 1×15 than 3×36. But I would probably rather have B McCarthy for 3×36 than Liriano for 1×15.

Regardless, this is fine-enough news.


If liriano does stay I hope the bucs buy him some long underwear for the first month or so next year since he has a history of not doing well in cold weather. If he starts out on fire we can be pretty sure he has a hot water bottle tucked away somewhere to compliment the longjohns.


I’d rather have Liriano, BMac makes Frankie look like Maddux when it comes to health. Honestly I wouldn’t want either for 3 years at those prices. A one year deal is perfect for us (no real risk and we have arms on their way), I hope he takes it, but I’m 95% sure he won’t.


Not sure I agree with that. Theybe both had health problems of both the freak injury and nagging injury variety.

They are pretty equal. McCarthy is just the Neal Huntington dream pitcher. Good velocity, never walks guys, gets grounders, k rate spiked last year, xFIP < ERA, and tall with downward plane.

All in all, if they end up with one of them, I'll be satisfied. Picking one over the other is splitting hairs for the most part.

Ron Loreski

I don’t see how Brandon McCarthy is a good fit. He’s too similar to Morton and Worley.


Not similar to Morton at all. McCarthy doesn’t pitch inside on purpose.


Is that necessarily a bad thing? It it necessarily beneficial to have different style pitchers?

Ron Loreski

I think Liriano accepts the QO. There might be a team out there willing to give him 3 years, but nowhere near $15.3mil AVV. If he can stay healthy for 2015, he’ll set himself up for a bigger payday next offseason.


What’s AVV ?


he means AAV – average annual value

3 years and $36 million is reasonable and I’d wager he would prefer that security to $15 million one and done. Teams like the Cubs and Sox have protected picks so they only lose a 2nd rounder, I bet we lose Martin to the Cubs, Frankie to Boston. If the Cubs get Lester as rumored they only lose a 3rd rounder for Martin


ja: Toronto is in dire need of a Catcher as Dioner Navarro was the primary last year. His 21% for throwing out runners was not impressive, and he is well on his way to being a “journeyman” Catcher who will be a back-up for somebody. He is only making $5 mil in 2015 and could be a good insurance policy. AA is on the line this year to get some players and Russell Martin from Montreal would be an excellent building block for a team with an excellent Rotation. I can see the Blue Jays outbidding the Cubs for Martins services.


Toronto is in dire need of a lot…..


I wonder if Martin will negotiate a clause that says he doesn’t have to catch knuckleballs.


Lol. I think toronto plans on carrying three catchers, one is dickey’s personal catcher..


I agree totally.. and it sounds like toronto is going to get there guy sooner vs later this year as well so we should know soon..


Lester doesn’t come with draft compensation.

Martin to the Cubs seems reasonable, but I think he’s going to the Dodgers. They’ve got too much money to be outbid and are a better team.

We shall see.

Ron Loreski

Alexander Valley Vineyards.


At which time the Pirates can simply do this all over again…


good news

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