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Pirates come to contract agreements with all arbitration-eligible players

| Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, 12:12 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez hits a two-run homer during the third inning against the Cardinals during Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

National League home run champ Pedro Alvarez got a 500 percent raise Friday, as the Pirates reached contract terms with all of their arbitration-eligible players.

Alvarez, who made $700,000 last season, saw his salary jump to $4.25 million in his first year in the arbitration process. The 26-year-old third baseman hit 34 homers, which tied him for the league lead.

The Pirates began this week with six unsigned players: Alvarez, outfielder Travis Snider, second baseman Neil Walker, first baseman Gaby Sanchez and relievers Mark Melancon and Vin Mazzaro.

Late Thursday night, Snider agreed to a $1.2 million deal. The rest finalized one-year contracts Friday afternoon. Walker got $5.75 million, Melancon agreed to $2.595 million, Sanchez will earn $2.3 million and Mazzaro will play for $950,000.

General manager Neal Huntington said he was not surprised the team was able to avoid arbitration hearings with all six players.

“In all of those situations, we felt there was a reasonable common ground,” Huntington said.

Walker, 28, is in his second year of eligibility after making $3.3 million last year. He hit .251 with a .757 on-base plus slugging percentage during the season but went just 2 for 24 in the playoffs.

Melancon, 28, also was in his first year of eligibility. He made $521,000 last season, when he was fifth in the NL with 26 holds and amassed 16 saves during a fill-in stint as closer.

Mazzaro, 27, was in his first year of eligibility. He went to spring training last year as a non-roster invitee but pitched in 57 games for the Pirates.

Sanchez, 30, made $1.75 million last year, when he batted .254 with a .762 OPS. He is expected to be a part-time starter this season, although the Pirates continue to search the free-agent and trade markets for another first baseman.

After Friday's signings, the Pirates have $71.45 million in payroll. That number will head toward $80 million when the pre-arbitration players on the 40-man roster get their contracts for 2014.

Huntington said finalizing the six contracts this week will not affect the team's financial flexibility when it comes to bringing in another player — such as luring back A.J. Burnett or trading for a first baseman — before the start of the regular season.

“They're pretty much independent entities,” Huntington said. “One really doesn't impact the other. It shouldn't impact our ability to do what we need to do elsewhere.”

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

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