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Pirates notebook: Gerrit Cole, Felipe Rivero likely to get big pay hikes at nontender deadline

| Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, 5:54 p.m.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole
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Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole throws during the seventh inning against the Cubs Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole throws during the seventh inning against the Cubs Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, at PNC Park.

The Pirates do not have any hard decisions heading into Friday's nontender deadline.

By 8 p.m., teams must decide if they will offer contracts to players on the 40-man roster who aren't already signed. That includes those who are eligible for salary arbitration, and for the Pirates, that's Jordy Mercer, Gerrit Cole, Felipe Rivero and George Kontos.

All four are expected to get offers.

In his second year of arbitration eligibility, Cole likely will be the priciest of the bunch. Cole went 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA last season, and analyst Matt Swartz of projects the right-hander will double his salary to $7.5 million next year.

With the winter meetings 10 days away, Cole already has been mentioned as a trade target. A week ago, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported the Minnesota Twins have talked to the Pirates about Cole.

There is little chance the Pirates could work out a long-term deal with Cole, who will be a free agent after the 2019 season.

For Rivero, perfect timing will lead him to a huge salary hike. He made near the minimum salary this past season but goes into his first year of arbitration after racking up 21 saves and blossoming into a lockdown closer.

A Super Two player, Rivero has three years of arbitration eligibility ahead of him.

Although the Pirates have three promising middle infielder prospects — Kevin Kramer, Kevin Newman, Cole Tucker — none is ready to start 2018 in the majors. Mercer will be back for what likely will be his final season with the Pirates.

Kontos put up a 1.84 ERA, a 0.81 WHIP and averaged 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings after the Pirates claimed him off waivers in August. He is a candidate for a setup job next season.

Roster moves

If you blinked, you might have missed Sam Moll's stint with the Pirates this week. About 72 hours after claiming Moll off waivers, the Pirates lost the lefty reliever Thursday to the Seattle Mariners.

The Pirates tried to sneak Moll through waivers in order to send him to the minors while opening a spot on their 40-man roster. With Moll gone, there are three open spots on the roster.

The Pirates signed outfielder Bralin Jackson and assigned him to High-A Bradenton. Jackson, who will turn 24 on Saturday, was the Tampa Bay Rays' fifth-round pick in 2012. Last season, he played 95 games with the independent Washington Wild Things and batted .294 with 16 homers and an .802 OPS.

Autograph schedule

Tickets for the autograph sessions at PiratesFest will go on general sale at noon Monday at . Tickets cost $20 for each of the four 60-minute sessions. Each session will be limited to 125 attendees.

The sessions will be held Dec. 8 at PNC Park. Francisco Cervelli, Trevor Williams and Tyler Glasnow will sign from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sean Rodriguez, Steven Brault and Adam Frazier will sign from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell and Jordan Luplow will sign from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Clint Hurdle, Felipe Rivero and Max Moroff will sign from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

PiratesFest will be held from noon to 6 p.m. Dec. 9 at PNC Park. That day's event will include free autograph sessions for fans ages 14-under.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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