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Pirates, Gerrit Cole, Jordy Mercer agree to $6.75M deals for 2018

Rob Biertempfel
| Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, 12:51 p.m.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole
Getty Images
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole
Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer watches his two-run game-tying triple during the seventh inning against the Marlins Saturday, June 10, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer watches his two-run game-tying triple during the seventh inning against the Marlins Saturday, June 10, 2017, at PNC Park.

Gerrit Cole knows how much he will make this year, but he doesn't know for sure who will pay it.

Cole, the Pirates right-hander who has been the subject of trade rumors this winter, on Friday avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $6.75 million contract.

The Pirates also signed shortstop Jordy Mercer for $6.75 million and reliever George Kontos for $2.725 million.

The team's other arbitration-eligible player, closer Felipe Rivero, did not agree to terms by the 1 p.m. deadline. The sides exchanged salary figures — Rivero is asking for $2.9 million, the Pirates are offering $2.4 million — and can continue to negotiate until the start of their arbitration hearing.

There were indications Friday night that the Pirates are attempting to work out a multi-year deal with Rivero.

If it goes to a hearing, arbiters must pick one dollar figure or the other. Hearings will be held Jan. 29 to Feb. 16 in Phoenix.

Cole, 27, got a $3 million raise in his second year of arbitration eligiblity. Last season, he went 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA and led the National League with 33 starts.

Over the past few weeks, Cole has been linked to potential trades to the New York Yankees and Houston Astros.

Even with his new contract, Cole could be traded before spring training begins Feb. 14. His deal is lower than some analysts projected, which could make Cole a more attractive trade target.

Mercer, 31, hit .255 with a .733 OPS. He hit a career-high 14 home runs and was third on the team with 145 games played. Mercer, who made $4.325 million last year, will be a free agent after this season.

Kontos, 32, has one year of eligibility left. He made $1.75 million last year and pitched in 15 games for the Pirates after being claimed off waivers Aug. 5.

As a Super Two qualifier, Rivero, 26, is in his first of four years of arbitration eligibility.

Last year, Rivero made $564,500, which was barely over the MLB minimum. He pitched in 73 games, sixth-most among National League relievers, and had 21 saves and 14 holds with a 1.67 ERA.

Rivero averaged 10.51 strikeouts per nine innings, sixth-best in the NL among receivers who threw at least 60 innings. His 0.89 WHIP ranked fourth in the league.

The Milwaukee Brewers on Friday settled with closer Corey Knebel at $3.65 million. Last year, Knebel made $538,900 and had 39 saves.

During PiratesFest in December, Rivero said he is willing to consider a contract extension that would buy out his arbitration years. General manager Neal Huntington has refused to say if the Pirates will consider offering a multi-year deal to Rivero, who is emerging as one of the top closers in the majors.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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