Pirates make $15.3 million qualifying offers to Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano

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Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports that the Pirates have extended $15.3 million qualifying offers to catcher Russell Martin and left-hander Francisco Liriano.

Both players have the option of accepting one-year, $15.3 million deals to return to Pittsburgh or declining to hit the open market, at which point the Pirates would receive draft pick compensation if they sign elsewhere.

Given the scarcity of quality catching options available Martin should have little trouble securing multi-year offers even with draft pick compensation attached, but it’s possible that Liriano could run into a problem similar to Ervin Santana last offseason when many interested teams aren’t willing to forfeit a draft pick to sign him.

Of course, considering how well Liriano has pitched and how much top-of-the-rotation starters tend to go for perhaps that won’t be the case, but his inconsistent track record makes it an interesting situation.

Jim Crane thought the heat over sign-stealing would blow over by spring training

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The Astros’ sign-stealing story broke in November, a steady drumbeat of coverage of it lasted through December and into January, when Rob Manfred’s report came out about it. The report was damning and, in its wake, Houston’s manager and general manger were both suspended and then fired.

After that a steady stream of media reports came out which not only made the whole affair seem even worse than Manfred’s report suggested, but which also suggested that, on some level, Major League Baseball had bungled it all and it was even worse than it had first seemed.

Rather than Manfred and the Astros putting this all behind them, the story grew. As it grew, both the Red Sox and Mets fired their managers and, in a few isolated media appearances, Astros’ players seemed ill-prepared for questions on it all. Once spring training began the Astros made even worse public appearances and, for the past week and change, each day has given us a new player or three angrily speaking out about how mad they are at the Astros and how poorly they’ve handled all of this.

Why have they handled it so poorly? As always, look to poor leadership:

Guess not.

In other news, Crane was — and I am not making this up — recently named the Houston Sports Executive of the Year. An award he has totally, totally earned, right?