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Pirates reach 6-year extension with Marte

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 10:57 a.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates left fielder Starling Marte makes a running catch during drills at spring training in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — The Pirates are poised to sign outfielder Starling Marte to a six-year, $31 million contract extension, multiple sources confirmed to the Tribune-Review.

The deal kicks in this season and buys out all of Marte's arbitration-eligible years and his first year of free agency. It also includes club options for 2020 and '21. The yearly payouts were not immediately available.

The extension will be finalized when Marte passes a physical. It likely will be announced Thursday before the Pirates play their final Grapefruit League game.

“It's a great deal for him and for his family,” pitcher Francisco Liriano said. “Now he can just play and not have to think about the next couple of years.”

General manager Neal Huntington and president Frank Coonelly declined to comment specifically about Marte's contract status.

“It is a part of our plan to try to extend young players,” Huntington said. “It would be inappropriate for me to get into much detail at this time.”

The deal is a coup for Huntington, who locked up one of the National League's top young outfielders through his prime years. The Pirates will get Marte for about two-thirds of the cost of Andrew McCutchen, who has a $51 million contract.

Signed for $85,000 in 2007 out of the Dominican Republic, Marte, 25, was set to make $512,600 — $12,600 above the major league minimum — this season. Last season he batted .280 with 41 stolen bases (and 15 caught-stealings, tops in the NL) and a .784 on-base plus slugging percentage. He also was a Gold Glove finalist in left field.

When Marte's deal is completed, the Pirates will have four players signed beyond this season. In December, right-hander Charlie Morton agreed to a three-year, $21 million contract. Outfielder Jose Tabata got a six-year, $15.5 million extension in August 2011. McCutchen is entering the third season of his six-year deal.

According to information gathered by the Associated Press before Marte's extension was completed, the Pirates were set to have an Opening Day payroll of $78.1 million. That would represent an increase of about $3 million over last season but still would be the fourth-lowest total among the 30 major league clubs.

Liriano, who is slated to be the Opening Day starter, can become a free agent after this season. He said the Pirates have not approached him about an extension, but he would be willing to discuss one.

“I would like to stay here,” Liriano said. “I had a great year here last year. I feel comfortable here. So if they come up to me and want to talk, I'm open to that. But I'm not thinking about that right now. I'm trying to get ready for the season.”

Three years ago, the team approached second baseman Neil Walker about a long-term contract, but those talks fell apart. Walker has gotten one-year deals in each of past two seasons — he has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining — and there have been no new discussions about a multiyear deal.

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

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