In lab, whenever someone is having an indordinate amount of trouble with an experiment, it's only a matter of time before someone says, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Usually it's said with an air of futility, because everyone goes through spells in their graduate career where they feel like they're doing the same thing over and over again and just hoping to get the right result.
The statement always provides a bit of perspective, though. Generally, whenever you're struggling with something it's because you are doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results that are never coming, because you're doing something wrong. You haven't set up the proper controls, read the right paper, you've made a mistake with the conditions the first time you made the buffer and never checked it again. If you can't figure out what you're doing wrong, you're going to be doomed to doing that experiment again for the rest of your life.
So here's what bugs me about the Pirates not picking up Paul Maholm's option or Ronny Cedeno's option and possibly non-tendering Garrett Jones: Neal Huntington should know by now how hard it is to fill roster spots via free agency when you're the Pittsburgh Pirates. They've had spots to fill the last few winters and ended up with the likes of Ryan Church and Bobby Crosby and Lyle Overbay and Matt Diaz and Kevin Correia. Paul Maholm and Ronny Cedeno are Garrett Jones are not great players and you could have an argument over whether they're even good ones, but they have their value and there are players worse at their positions than they are.
Going into the winter, the options the team held on the catchers (Doumit and Snyder) were obviously ones unfavorable to the team and Derrek Lee was pretty clearly not coming back and the pitching staff fell apart at the end of the season. Those were obvious needs that the team had and they couldn't do much about them. Now, though, they've gone ahead and created a huge hole in the rotation and a bigger hole at shortstop than there was before and if they drop Jones, too, they're going to be widening the problem at first base as well. It was pretty unlikely the Pirates were going to be able to fill their needs when their needs were just a catcher and the short end of a first base platoon and maybe a starter. Now they need an actual starting pitcher and a shortstop and a catcher and if the reports about Jones are true, they'll need a full-time first baseman as well.
I always say that I want Huntington to be more unique and it's true that I think the team should be thinking big and that you can argue that playing guys like Jones and Maholm and Cedeno is thinking pretty small, but honestly the chance for this to backfire given what we've seen over the last four off-seasons seems pretty high. That's what has me worried, not the quality of the players the Pirates are letting walk
The only rational explanation is that the Pirates do believe they can fill the holes internally. For C - McKenry and any number of the backup catchers floating around the system is an option - a poor hitting one, but I believe Hurdle emphasizes defense behind the plate rather than offense at the plate. At 1b - move Alvarez. At SS - Mercer or D'Arnaud. At 3b - Harrison. In RF - Presley. In the rotation - how about moving Leroux in, or giving full time chances to Lincoln or perhaps one of the many many failed SP prospects littering the landscape in AAA or AA (Morris, Owens, et al).
The Pirates should dumpster dive to add bodies, but quality would become an issue. As far as trades - what would the Pirates give up and who is available is better known to them than the public. However, as I stated in previous comments, Huntington does not have a stellar track record, so giving up prospects for established players seems even more risky.