Pitchers Karstens, Meek come to terms with Pirates

Rob Biertempfel
| Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012

The Pirates on Tuesday locked up right-hander Jeff Karstens and reliever Evan Meek to one-year contracts. However, infielders Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee are headed toward arbitration after failing to come to terms.

Karstens signed for $3.1 million, nearly tripling his salary from last year. Meek will get $875,000 in base pay plus a $25,000 bonus if he pitches 50 innings in the majors this season.

The Pirates and the agents for Jones and McGehee on Tuesday exchanged salary figures. McGehee asked for $2.725 million, and the Pirates offered $2.35 million. Jones asked for $2.5 million, and the Pirates offered $2.25 million.

If the process goes to a hearing, the board of arbiters must choose one of the two figures. Players and management may can continue to negotiate right up until a hearing begins. Hearings will be held Feb. 1-17.

McGehee is in the first of his three years of arbitration eligibility. Based on his service time, Jones got "Super Two" status and has four years of eligibility.

Overall this offseason, the Pirates have signed six of their eight arbitration-eligible players. The pay hikes nudge the team's expected total payroll to around $48 million, in part because the relief corps is pricier than a year ago.

The seven members of the Pirates' bullpen on Opening Day 2011 made a combined $6.57 million. This year, the 'pen will be worth at least $8.36 million.

The four arbitration-eligible relievers who signed this winter — closer Joel Hanrahan and righties Jason Grilli, Chris Resop and Meek — will get a combined $6.92 million.

The other three bullpen jobs are up for grabs. The three frontrunners — lefties Tony Watson and Daniel Moskos, and righty Chris Leroux — each make the major-league minimum of $480,000.

Karstens, who $1.1 million last year, began last season in the bullpen and ended it in the starting rotation. Now a full-time starter, Karstens' salary has climbed significantly.

Notes: The Pirates invited six non-roster players to spring training: pitchers Gerrit Cole and Mike Crotta; catchers Tony Sanchez, Ramon Cabrera and Eric Fryer; and outfielder Robbie Grossman. Cole was the top overall pick in the 2011 draft. ... The Pirates also announced their signing of left-hander Doug Slaten to a minor league contract with a spring training invite. Slaten, 31, made 31 relief outings last season for the Washington Nationals and missed most of the campaign with a elbow injury.

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