Pirates reach deals with 5 arbitration-eligible players

| Friday, Jan. 15, 2016, 1:00 p.m.

The Pirates reached one-year deals with five players Friday, which allowed the team to avoid going to arbitration with any of their seven eligible players.

The Pirates reached a one-year deal worth $9.65 million with closer Mark Melancon, according to a source.

The Pirates reached a one-year, $3.5 million deal with catcher Francisco Cervelli, who can become a free agent after the 2016 season, and a one-year, $2.075 million deal with shortstop Jordy Mercer, sources told the Tribune-Review.

The Pirates also reached one-year deals with relief pitchers Tony Watson ($3.45 million) and Jared Hughes ($2.75 million) prior to Friday's deadline.

Watson and Hughes were each arbitration eligible for a second time. Arbitration-eligible players who did not sign by 1 p.m. Friday must exchange salary figures with their teams with an arbitrator ultimately deciding in favor of the club or player.

“It is our preference to reach a common financial ground via negotiation, and we were able to do that this time through the cycle,” general manager Neal Huntington said.

Earlier in the week, the club also signed pitcher Jeff Locke. Backup catcher Chris Stewart also reached a two-year deal with the Pirates, pending a physical.

Melancon, who led the majors with a club-record 51 saves last season, was in line to receive a projected $10 million in arbitration.

Locke, Hughes, Cervelli, Watson and Mercer signed one-year deals for a combined $14.8 million in 2016. MLBTradeRumors.com projected the five would earn $14.6 million.

Cervelli exceeded his projection by the greatest amount — $1 million — while Watson earned $1.2 million less than his projection.

Cervelli replaced much of Russell Martin's value after being acquired from the New York Yankees last offseason in a trade. Cervelli was an above average offensive and defensive contributor for the Pirates. He was worth 3.8 Wins Above Replacement in 2015.

Mercer, a defensive-minded shortstop, hit a modest .244 last season. But he saved 6.6 runs above average, defensively, compared to an average major league shortstop, according to Fangraphs.com.

Hughes and Watson were integral parts of what was one of the best bullpens in the sport in 2015.

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