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Pirates sign Walker, McDonald to contracts

| Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, 7:24 p.m.
Christopher Horner
The Pirates' Neil Walker, shown here during a game last season against Milwaukee, agreed to a one-year deal Thursday to avoid arbitration. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Pirates pitcher James McDonald delivers against St. Louis last season at PNC Park. McDonald agreed to a 1-year deal on Thursday and avoided arbitration. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

The Pirates on Thursday avoided salary arbitration with second baseman Neil Walker and pitcher James McDonald by signing each to one-year contracts.

Walker's deal is worth $3.3 million and McDonald's $3.025 million, industry sources said.

Walker, 27, is in the first of his four years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $3.6 million, and the team countered with $3 million. Last year, he made $500,000, which was slightly more than the major league minimum.

McDonald, 28, in the first of his three years of eligibility, filed for $3.4 million, and the team countered with $2.65 million. He made $502,500 last year.

The Pirates previously came to terms with its three other arbitration-eligible players: Garrett Jones ($4.5 million), Gaby Sanchez ($1.754 million) and Charlie Morton ($2 million).

The Pirates have 14 players under contract this year for a total of $69.5 million. However, $13.5 million of that will be paid by the New York Yankees and Houston Astros to partially cover the salaries of pitchers A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez. The Pirates still are putting together a deal for free-agent pitcher Francisco Liriano.

At PirateFest in December, president Frank Coonelly said the club's 2013 payroll would be “approaching $70 million.”

This past season, Walker hit .280 with a .768 on-base plus slugging percentage and 69 RBI. His 14 home runs were the most by a Pirates second baseman since Warren Morris hit 15 in 1999.

A herniated disk forced Walker to sit out 27 of the final 35 games, but he is expected to be ready for the start of spring training.

McDonald went 12-8 with a 4.21 ERA in 30 games (29 starts). The right-hander racked up nine victories before the All-Star break and was mentioned as a potential Cy Young Award candidate. But McDonald won just three games in the second half of the season and eventually was banished to the bullpen.

Entering spring training, McDonald is slated to be the No. 3 pitcher in the starting rotation.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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