Pirates avoid arbitration with 6 players, including Melancon

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mark Melancon’s All-Star season earned the closer a hefty raise.

Melancon and the Pittsburgh Pirates avoided arbitration on Friday, agreeing to a one-year deal that will pay him $9.65 million in 2016. The 30-year-old led the majors with 51 saves in 2015 as the Pirates won 98 games to earn a wild-card berth for a third straight year.

Melancon was in his third and final year of arbitration.

Pittsburgh also reached agreement with left-handed setup man Tony Watson, catcher Francisco Cervelli, reliever Jared Hughes, shortstop Jordy Mercer and left-handed starter Jeff Locke.

Watson, who has one year of arbitration remaining, will make $3.45 million next season. Cervelli, who hit .295 and drove in a career-best 43 runs while playing in 130 games, signed for $3.5 million. Hughes agreed to a deal worth $2.175 million. Mercer, in his first season of arbitration, will make $2.075 million. Locke, an All-Star in 2013 who has struggled in each of the last two seasons, signed for $3.025 million.

The Pirates are in the process of signing backup catcher Chris Stewart to a two-year contract. The deal is pending a physical. With the new contracts the team’s payroll is expected to be around a club-record $100 million on opening day.

Pittsburgh will not go to arbitration with any players this year, unlike last season when the franchise went to arbitration with second baseman Neil Walker, first baseman Pedro Alvarez and pitcher Vance Worley. All three players are no longer with the team.

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