Pittsburgh Pirates Player Arbitration Projections for 2018
Analysis: The Pittsburgh Pirates have four players heading to arbitration this winter. What kind of raises should they expect to get?
The Pittsburgh Pirates had four players that they needed to decide whether to tender or non-tender. They did this on December 1st, which was the non-tender deadline for all teams to decide who to tender contracts to. The Pittsburgh Pirates tendered contracts to all four arbitration-eligible players. This list is made up of Gerrit Cole, Felipe Rivero, Jordy Mercer, and George Kontos. With that, they all have different service times and are at different stages of the arbitration process. So what can be expected in terms of their salaries this upcoming season? MLB Trade Rumors has their projections for all four players.
Gerrit Cole will no doubt be the most expensive player of the four. Last year, Cole made a modest $3.75 million. It was his first year of arbitration. He had an average year this past season, going 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA. He did compile over 200 innings pitched for the second time in his career and nearly struck out 200 batters with 196 punch outs on the year. With that, Cole will see a significant bump in his salary. It will not be as high as one might have thought a few years ago, due to a down last two seasons. Still, the process rewards players who are important to their teams and Cole is still the Pittsburgh Pirates number one pitcher. MLBTR projects Cole to receive about $7.5 million, doubling his salary from last year.
While Gerrit Cole is the Pittsburgh Pirates number one pitcher, Felipe Rivero is easily their best reliever. Rivero is now entering his first season of arbitration and is expected to get a healthy contract after dominating in 2017. Rivero only has just over two years in terms of MLB service, but falls under Super-2 due to when the Nationals originally promoted him in 2015. So Rivero will actually get four arbitration years compared to three. MLBTR projects Rivero to receive about $3.1 million this off-season after making just $564K last season. As of now, this is still affordable for the Bucs. Rivero was dominant last season, striking out 88 hitters in 75.1 innings. In total for the 2017 year, he pitched to a 1.67 ERA.
The last pitcher that is arbitration eligible is reliever George Kontos. Kontos was picked up off waivers on August 6th from the Giants. He was very effective in his time with the Bucs. He made 15 appearances and pitched 14.2 innings. Furthermore, he finished this partial year with a 1.84 ERA and struck out over one batter per inning, registering 15 in his abbreviated Pirates season. Last year in arbitration, Kontos earned $1.75 million. This year, MLBTR expects him to get a million dollars raise to $2.7 million.
The only position player that is going to arbitration is shortstop Jordy Mercer. Mercer is coming off a season where he hit .255 with a .326 on-base percentage. He also had 14 home runs, which was a career best for him. Last season he made $4.35 million, which is pretty good for the production he gave the Bucs. Mercer will never be an impact player, but there are definitely worse options out there. However, he is entering his last year of arbitration, which MLBTR projects him to get $6.5 million. Now, this is very affordable for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Still, there is a chance that Mercer is traded during this off-season. The Bucs always explore trades for players entering their final year of team control.
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Of the four, Mercer is most likely to be traded strictly because he is entering the final year of his contract and is making a decent chunk of money that could be allocated elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Bucs have Kevin Newman who will likely make his début this season. Gerrit Cole’s name will also be brought up in the rumors. With a lack of quality starting pitching options on the free agent market, and two more years of team control, it could make sense for the Bucs to explore a big time overpay for the former number one overall pick. Rivero also has seen his name in trade rumors, although the Pirates should have no real motivation to move him outside of a substantial package that cannot be said no to. Kontos is the safest bet to be on the team next year with two more seasons of cheap control.
*All salary numbers are from Spotrac