Arbitration Eligibles: Pittsburgh Pirates

Matt Swartz has developed a very accurate model that MLBTR uses to project arbitration salaries, as explained in this series of posts. We've heard from many MLB teams and agencies that reference the projections in their work.  The Pirates are next in our series.  Estimated service time is in parentheses, and estimated 2014 salary follows.

Though Jones faced lefties in only about five percent of his plate appearances, the left-handed hitter still compiled a dismal .233/.289/.419 line on the season.  He's topped 20 home runs in three of his five years with the Bucs, and can still be a useful platoon bat.  However, with arbitration likely to push Jones' salary past $5MM for 2014, I think he'll be non-tendered.

Infielders Walker, Alvarez, and Sanchez should be in good standing for 2014.  Walker's production remained consistent.  Despite extension talks in the past, the Pirates have yet to extend the Pittsburgh native.  Howie Kendrick's four-year, $33.5MM deal could serve as a model, though Walker would probably have to top $40MM to account for being a Super Two.  Alvarez made the All-Star team and hit 36 home runs with 100 RBI this year, though he also led the NL in strikeouts and posted a .296 OBP.  I'd be cautious in considering an extension, but it's probably a moot point with the Boras Corporation representing Alvarez.  Sanchez did what was asked of him, hitting lefties extremely well while facing them almost 40% of the time.  He'll probably be retained.

Snider and McKenry are on thinner ice.  Snider, a former first-round pick in '06, had a chance at running away with the Pirates' right field job but failed to produce and battled injuries.  There's a decent chance he's non-tendered, especially since he's out of options.  McKenry surprised with a dozen home runs in part-time duty last year behind the plate, but a knee injury that eventually required surgery ended his 2013 season in July.  Even if Tony Sanchez gets the backup nod next year, McKenry seems cheap enough to retain in Triple-A for depth.

Morton had Tommy John surgery in June 2012 and made his 2013 season debut a year later.  The 29-year-old groundball pitcher put together a strong 116 innings, posting a 3.26 ERA.  Now he's entering his contract year, so the Pirates must decide whether to try to extend him.  The Bucs might want something like two years and $12MM or three years and $20MM, plus a club option in either case, since Morton has yet to reach 175 innings in a season.  If Morton plays out his contract year and approximates his 2013 success over a full season, the price will rise quite a bit and he can avoid option years. 

Melancon had a breakout year in the Pirates' bullpen, making the All-Star team and posting a 1.39 ERA in 71 innings.  He racked up 16 saves when closer Jason Grilli went down, plus 26 holds as Grilli's setup man.  As good as he was in 2013, I don't think there's a need for the Pirates to pursue an extension unless it's very team-friendly.  Mazzaro rode a 52.2% groundball rate to a strong relief season, and should also have a spot in next year's pen.

Assuming the Pirates tender contracts to Walker, Alvarez, Morton, Melancon, Sanchez, McKenry, and Mazzaro, they're looking at an estimated $19.7MM for seven arbitration eligible players.

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