The Pirates declined qualifying offers of $14.1 million to any of their three free agents eligible to receive them, right-handers A.J. Burnett and Jeff Karstens and shortstop Clint Barmes.
Only the choice to not tender Burnett came as a surprise -- to an extent.
Given Burnett's outspoken stance of pitching only for the Pirates if he decides to continue his career, general manager Neal Huntington evidently saw no need to kick off possible negotiations with the qualifying offer -- which is designed as Draft-pick compensation protection for teams losing free agents.
Likewise, the exclusive negotiating window which closes at 11:59 p.m. ET Monday would not impact Burnett, if he indeed has no interest in taking the ball elsewhere.
Burnett would be in line to become the highest-paid player ever for the Pirates, who last season covered $8 million of the $16.5 million he earned in the final year of the five-year contract he signed with the Yankees in December 2008.
That distinction currently belongs -- quite embarrassingly -- to Matt Morris, paid $9.5 million for a 2008 season in which he was released in late April with an 0-4 record and 9.67 ERA. Morris' pink slip came from Huntington, who a few months earlier had succeeded Dave Littlefield, who had acquired Morris from the Giants the previous July.
The qualifying offer -- representing the average salary of Major League Baseball's 125 highest-paid players -- had to be made by 5 p.m. ET Monday to free agents to put their 2013 clubs in position to receive Draft compensation for players who end up signing elsewhere.
Players made the offer have until next Monday to accept -- locking them into returning to their '13 teams -- or to decline; rejection will not preclude further negotiations between the parties.
One year ago, the first time qualifying offers replaced A-B rankings for free-agent compensation, the $13.3 million offer was made to nine players and rejected by all of them: Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton, Kyle Lohse, Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano, Hiroki Kuroda, David Ortiz, Michael Bourn and Adam LaRoche.
Those nine went on to sign contracts with an average 2013 value of $12.2 million. However, eight of the nine agreed to multiyear deals with an annual average of $14.5 million across the life of those contracts; the exception was Kuroda, who re-signed for one year with the Yankees at $15 million.
Burnett was the only one of the eligible Pirates even considered for a qualifying offer. Barmes played out a two-year, $10.5 million contract and would not retain his job as the everyday shortstop. Karstens spent the entire season on the disabled list. The Bucs' remaining free agents -- outfielder Marlon Byrd, first baseman Justin Morneau, catcher John Buck and righty Kyle Farnsworth -- all joined the team in-season.
The club remains interested in re-signing Byrd and Barmes, and negotiations with them will continue.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.