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Pirates make Marte signing official

| Thursday, March 27, 2014, 12:48 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Andrew McCutchen nodded approvingly Thursday morning when the Pirates finalized their six-year, $31 million contract extension with outfielder Starling Marte.

“It's beneficial for both sides,” McCutchen said. “I'm living testimony of that.”

Before the 2012 season, McCutchen signed a six-year, $51.5 million deal. It's the second-largest contract in franchise history behind the $60 million package Jason Kendall got in 2000.

Instead of being a building block, though, Kendall's contract wound up as nothing more than a footnote amid 21 consecutive losing seasons.

It could be different with the deals given to McCutchen and Marte. Including Jose Tabata and Charlie Morton, the Pirates have four players signed beyond the 2014 season. More multi-year deals could be on the way.

“It's an exciting time,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We're not trying to build a house; we're trying to create a home. This is tangible evidence that we're creating a place where players want to be, a place where they want to thrive, a place where players want to settle.”

Marte will get a $2 million bonus in addition to his $512,600 salary this year. He will make $1 million in 2015, $3 million in 2016, $5 million in 2017, $7.5 million in 2018 and $10 million in 2019. There is a $2 million buyout if the club declines its options in 2020 ($11.5 million) and 2021 ($12.5 million).

The dollar figures in each of the option years could increase by up to $1 million, based on where Marte finishes in the NL MVP voting. With those escalators, the contract could be worth up to $53 million.

“There are a lot of reasons I (signed),” Marte said through interpreter Peter Greenberg, his agent. “I didn't feel I needed to wait because I like where I am. I have confidence in the organization, and I feel comfortable.”

Just 25 years old, Marte has played 182 games since making his big league debut in July 2012. He was an NL Gold Glove finalist in left field last season — and essentially gives the Pirates two center fielders in PNC Park's spacious outfield.

“Left-center used to be my gap, my ball (to catch),” McCutchen said. “When he got there, he pretty much established that he could catch that ball, regardless of how it's hit or where we are (positioned). I know that if I can't get to it, he probably can. It makes it easy on me and easy on my legs.”

Locking up Marte gives management some financial flexibility in coming years that comes from having fixed costs. That will be important as key players such as second baseman Neil Walker, third baseman Pedro Alvarez and right-hander Gerrit Cole approach free agency.

“This is something that's part of our plan to sign young men who are going to be great players,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “We feel very fortunate Starling was willing to commit to us as we were willing to commit to him.”

This year's $78.1 million payroll is the highest in franchise history, although it still ranks as the fourth-lowest among the 30 major league teams. McCutchen expects to see the Pirates offer more multiyear contracts in the next few years.

“It's something that didn't happen before, so it's good that it's happening now,” McCutchen said. “Hopefully, we can continue it with some other guys in this clubhouse. You would think that it would come with what we did last year and what we're continuing to do. We continue to change things for the better.”

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

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