Bucs reach deals with all arbitration-eligibles

Bucs reach deals with all arbitration-eligibles

Mark Melancon, who was rumored to have been available in the trade market as he prepares for his final season before free agency, will earn $9.65 million in 2016 after agreeing to a one-year deal with the Pirates on Friday.

Melancon was one of six arbitration-eligible players to agree to terms before the two sides were to publically exchange desired salary figures. The team's only other arbitration-eligible player, Chris Stewart, reached a two-year agreement that was announced Tuesday after a physical.

The others avoiding arbitration included catcher Francisco Cervelli, relievers Tony Watson and Jared Hughes, shortstop Jordy Mercer and starting pitcher Jeff Locke. Although the Pirates do not disclose salary figures, MLB.com confirmed the value of each agreement.

Cervelli, arbitration-eligible for the third time, will earn $3.5 million in 2016. Watson, a second-time arbitration-eligible player, will make $3.45 million. First-time arbitration eligible players Hughes, Mercer and Locke will make $2.175 million, $2.075 million and $3.025 million, respectively.

Melancon's $9.65 million agreement comes after he earned $5.4 million as the team's closer last season. He led the league with 51 saves.

The string of deals cleared the slate of all pending Pirates arbitration cases ahead of next month's hearings.

Melancon, who turns 31 on March 28, had a 2.23 ERA in 78 games. Named to the National League All-Star team last season, he allowed 57 hits and walked 14 over 76 2/3 innings with 62 strikeouts and a 0.93 WHIP.

The 29-year-old Mercer, who was first-time eligible for arbitration this winter, earned $538,000 in 2015. In 116 games last season, he batted .244/.293/.320 with three home runs and 34 RBIs.

Mercer's RBI double

Cervelli, who turns 30 on March 6, batted .295/.370/.401 in 130 games during his first season with the Pirates with seven homers and 43 RBIs. A third-year eligible player for arbitration, he made $987,500 in 2015.

Watson, 30, was 4-1 with a 1.91 ERA in 77 appearances and made $1.75 million last season. He was second-year arbitration eligible.

Hughes, 30, posted a 3-1 record and 2.28 ERA in 76 appearances while making $1.075 million. He was eligible for arbitration for the first time.

Locke tied a career high with 30 starts last season but pitched inconsistently, finishing 8-11 with a 4.49 ERA. In an effort to improve his strike-throwing and overall performance, Locke began working with pitching coach Ray Searage this week at Pirate City. Locke will remain in Florida to work on his modified delivery, joking as he left the clubhouse Thursday that he'll be "in the lab" until Opening Day.

Stewart, who turns 34 in February, was slated to become a free agent after the 2016 season. He has been a reliable catcher for the Pirates each of the past two seasons and hit .292 with a .657 OPS in 107 games as the backup to Russell Martin and Cervelli. He is well-regarded for his defense and pitch framing, and he has put together the best offensive seasons of his career with the Pirates.

By locking up Stewart through the 2017 season, the Pirates seem to be paving the way for No. 14 prospect Elias Diaz to take over the starting job in 2017 with Stewart as his backup. After a brief callup last season, Diaz is slated to catch every day for Triple-A Indianapolis this year. Though he has expressed a desire to finish his career in Pittsburgh, Cervelli, like Melancon, will be a free agent after this season.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.