The Pirates avoided going to arbitration with two of their pitchers Thursday with the Friday deadline looming.
First, it was announced the Bucs and Drew Hutchison settled on a salary of $2.3M for the 2017 season. MLB Trade Rumors projected him at $2.2M. Hutch made $2.2M last season with the Blue Jays in his first go around in arbitration, so he gets a slight raise heading into this season. With a salary of $2.3M, I’m sure we’ll be seeing Hutchison on the 25-man roster, if not given a shot in the rotation where he’s made 74 starts in his young career.
Next came the announcement of the Pirates and reliever Jared Hughes settling on a salary of $2.825M in his second time with arbitration. He also came in high on MLBTR’s $2.5M projection and will enjoy a $650,000 raise from 2016. Despite what was considered a down year, Hughes still finished strong and ended with a 3.03 ERA in 59.1 innings of work, but an ugly 4.68 FIP. He still produced a nice 57.9% groundball rate.
With two down, that leaves the Pirates with four players remaining to agree on a salary before the Friday deadline of 1PM. Gerrit Cole (expected $4.2M), Tony Watson ($5.9M), Jordy Mercer ($4.0M) and Juan Nicasio ($4.6M) are the four arbitration eligible players remaining. There were reports earlier in the week that the Pirates were discussing an extension with Mercer, which would be a questionable move at that with SS prospects Kevin Newman and Cole Tucker (two former first round picks) moving through the system.
And Watson’s name has been brought up all offseason as a possible arm to trade out of the crowded pen. Watson is projected to make $5.9M this season, coming off a rare down year for him and is one of five lefties slated for the bullpen. The Pirates may be waiting to agree on a figure with Watson before dealing because there’s nothing to gain from dealing him before Friday’s deadline considering every team knows where his salary range will end up. Unless Watson is demanding a significant raise and the Pirates want to avoid arbitration with any player.
Either way, we may finally have some answers on Friday should any arm be dealt, and if not, we’ll know where all the exact salaries for the main part of the roster.