PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Pirates declined their $6 million option Wednesday on spare outfielder Jeromy Burnitz and will pay him a $700,000 buyout that allows him to become a free agent -- though he might retire.
Burnitz turned down a $12 million, two-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles last winter to sign with Pittsburgh, apparently to stay in the National League. Burnitz has played in the NL since 1998 with the Brewers, Mets, Dodgers, Rockies, Cubs and Pirates.
The move means the Pirates spent $6.7 million for an outfielder who barely played after the All-Star break, getting only eight at-bats in September and no starts after Sept. 5. He hit .230 in 111 games with 16 homers, 49 RBI and 74 strikeouts in 313 at-bats.
The Pirates signed Burnitz to give them a left-handed hitting power threat in PNC Park, which has a cozy right-field home run porch. But he started off poorly, with his average dropping to .183 by mid-May, and subsequently saw his playing time decrease.
Burnitz said when the season ended that he might retire rather than return for a 17th major league season. He has 315 homers and 981 RBI in 1,694 career games. Full story
DENVER -- Colorado declined to exercise options on relievers Ray King, Jose Mesa and Mike DeJean, saving more than $6 million. However, general manager Dan O'Dowd said that the club hopes to pursue new deals with Mesa and DeJean.
O'Dowd hopes DeJean rebounds from shoulder surgery. DeJean, 36, appeared in just two games last season before being sidelined by a right shoulder injury that required an operation to repair a frayed labrum and rotator cuff in June. He went 1-0, tossing 1 2/3 scoreless innings before getting hurt.
With DeJean sidelined, Mesa made a career-high 79 appearances. Mesa, 40, went 1-5 with a 3.86 ERA. The 18-year major league veteran led the club's relievers in games, losses, innings and holds (19).
The Rockies' left-handed setup man, King was 1-4 with a 4.43 ERA in 67 relief appearances. His days in Denver are done.
Giants decline options on Finley, Wright
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants declined to exercise club options for 2007 on outfielder Steve Finley and right-hander Jamey Wright.
The Giants will give Finley a $1 million buyout instead of picking up his $7 million option. Wright gets a $300,000 buyout instead of a $2.5 million salary for 2007. The two became eligible to file for free-agency.
Finley, acquired last offseason from the Los Angeles Angels, batted .246 with six homers and 40 RBI in 139 games in his one season in San Francisco. He tied Willie Mays' 36-year-old San Francisco record for most triples in a season with 12 and became the sixth player to reach 300 career stolen bases and home runs.
Wright, a non-roster invitee to spring training, went 6-10 with a 5.19 ERA in 34 appearances.
Phils' Rowand eligible for salary arbitration
PHILADELPHIA -- Aaron Rowand and Philadelphia declined their respective options for the 2007 season, making the center fielder eligible for salary arbitration. Rowand hit .262 with 12 home runs and 47 RBI in 109 games before his season ended after he broke his ankle in a collision during an Aug. 22 game at Chicago.
Rowand, acquired last offseason from the Chicago White Sox for Jim Thome, became an instant fan favorite in Philadelphia after he broke his nose on a spectacular run-saving catch against the Mets in May.
After Rowand declined a $3.25 million player option, the Phillies declined a $5 million team option. He made $3.25 million this year.
Rowand joined pitchers Ryan Madson, Brett Myers, Geoff Geary and All-Star second baseman Chase Utley as arbitration-eligible players.
Smith back with Bucs as GM's special assistant
PITTSBURGH -- Roy Smith returned to the Pirates as a special assistant to general manager Dave Littlefield.
Smith, an assistant GM in Pittsburgh from 1998-04, spent the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers as vice president of scouting and player development. He worked in 2005 with Jim Tracy, then the Dodgers' manager and now the Pirates' manager.
Smith, a former pitcher with the Indians, Twins and Orioles, joined the Pirates as an amateur scout in 1994. He was Pittsburgh's interim general manager for a month in 2001 after Cam Bonifay was fired and before Littlefield was hired.
The Pirates also hired Tony Beasley as their minor league roving infield instructor. He was the third base coach for Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson last season.