"There are no guarantees, but I'm going to test it and see where it goes," Maholm said. "I'm not going to close any doors, but I want to see what's out there. I owe that to my family, to do what's best for them."
The Pirates have left the door open for the option being exercised. This allows the club to retain some leverage in case of a possible trade.
"We have not officially determined that we are going to decline the option," Pirates GM Neal Huntington said.
Huntington's comments came after team president Frank Coonelly told a Pittsburgh-area radio station that the team was unlikely to exercise the option and that the Pirates had already informed Maholm of that decision.
There is a $750,000 buyout if the one-year option is not picked up.
Maholm, a first-round draft pick in 2003, went 6-14 this season -- though he often had poor run support -- and finished the season on the disabled list because of a strained shoulder.