By Jason Shetler
Neil Walker – p/c: Charles LeClare -USA Today Sports
Here is an early look at the Pirates who will be arbitration eligible this offseason.
Chris Stewart: The Pirates avoided arbitration with Chris Stewart last offseason, as he signed for $1.225 million. The veteran backup catcher has put together a nice season, hitting .288 while doing a good job behind the plate for Gerrit Cole. Stewart will be entering his final year of arbitration, and will likely return as Francisco Cervelli’s backup.
Francisco Cervelli: Looking to replace Russell Martin, the Pirates acquired Francisco Cervelli from the New York Yankees. In his first season with the Bucs, Cervelli is batting .305 with a .795 OPS in 99 games. He also has a 3.0 WAR, which is third best among all big league catchers. Cervelli will be in his last year of arbitration this offseason. The Pirates giving him an extension could be a possibility.
Jared Hughes: It’s been another good season for Jared Hughes, as he continues to be one of the better middle relievers in the game. He’s been a workhorse this year making 62 appearances while posting a 2.40 ERA and a 61% groundball rate. Hughes is set to be eligible for arbitration a second time, and will return next season.
Jeff Locke: 2015 has been another up and down year for Jeff Locke. The 27-year-old southpaw has posted a 4.56 ERA along with a 1.44 WHIP in 24 starts. Command continues to plague Locke, especially when it comes to the second half of the season. He’ll be arbitration eligible for the first time in the offseason. Wouldn’t come as a surprise to see the Pirates go the non-tender route with Locke.
Jordy Mercer: For the second straight season, Jordy Mercer has struggled offensively in the first half. He was recently activated from the DL after missing nearly a month with a leg injury. Mercer will be back with the Pirates next season, as he becomes arbitration eligible for the first time. The question becomes whether or not he’ll be the Bucs everyday shortstop in 2016.
Mark Melancon: After starting off erratic in April, Mark Melancon has been one of the best closers this year. In 61 appearances, he’s posted a 1.50 ERA while recording 40 saves, which is currently tops in the National League. This past offseason, the Pirates signed Melancon for $5.4 million to avoid arbitration. He’ll be in his last year of arbitration this offseason. With the season Melancon is having, he should be given a huge salary boost, which could result in the Pirates moving him.
Neil Walker: Coming off a career year in 2014, Neil Walker earned $8 million in arbitration. The veteran switch-hitter isn’t having as strong a season as last year, but his 13 home runs does lead all NL second baseman. Defensively however, Walker continues to steadily decline, as his dWAR and UZR/150 are -0.3 and -11.2 respectively. Because of the money Walker made last offseason, the Pirates could wind up trading him, especially given the fact that there’s more options for them to replace Walker.
Pedro Alvarez: 2015 has been a very interesting year for Pedro Alvarez to say the least. His defense at first base has been horrendous, committing a Major League most 18 errors while posting a -2.0 dWAR. For as bad as Alvarez has looked with the glove, his offense has been good, as he’s put up a 109 OPS+ while his 20 home runs currently leads the club. Alvarez took the Pirates to arbitration last offseason, and earned $5.75 million. Given the defensive struggles, the Pirates could look to deal Alvarez to an American League team this offseason since all his trade value is with his offense.
Tony Watson: In his fourth full season in the Pirates bullpen, Tony Watson continues to establish himself as one of the best lefty relievers in baseball. This past offseason, he avoided arbitration with the Pirates, signing for $1.75 million. Watson will be second time arbitration eligible once the season is over, and should receive a nice salary raise. If the Pirates decide to trade Melancon in the offseason, Watson should be the closer next year.
Travis Ishikawa: The San Francisco Giants avoided arbitration with Travis Ishikawa last offseason for $1.1 million. He didn’t get much playing time for the Giants, and was designated for assignment. The Pirates claimed Ishikawa off waivers in early July. The overall numbers for him have been mediocre, but he has done well as a pinch-hitter. Since Ishikawa won’t get many at-bats in September, the Pirates will likely non-tender him in the offseason.
Travis Snider: After being dealt by the Pirates this past offseason, Travis Snider returned to the organization on a minor league contract after being released by the Baltimore Orioles last week. Snider is currently with AAA Indianapolis, and will join the Pirates in September as an extra bat off the bench. Just like Ishikawa, Snider probably won’t see much playing time, and could be given a non-tender.
Vance Worley: Coming off a very good 2014 campaign, Vance Worley entered last offseason as a first time arbitration eligible. He was the only pitcher to take the Pirates to arbitration, and was given $2.45 million. Worley started off the year in the rotation, but was moved to the bullpen after Charlie Morton returned from the DL. When the Pirates acquired Joe Blanton a week before the trade deadline, Worley was designated for assignment, but cleared waivers. He should return to the Pirates as a September call up. Worley will be arbitration eligible for a second time this offseason. It’ll be interesting to see if the Pirates bring him back and give him a fair opportunity as a back end starter in the rotation.