Pirates avoid arbitration with all eight eligible


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The Pirates agreed to terms with all eight of their arbitration eligible players Friday.

Josh Bell, Jameson Taillon, Joe Musgrove, Trevor Williams, Keone Kela, Adam Frazier, Chad Kuhl and Michael Feliz all agreed to one-year contracts rather than going through the arbitration process.

Bell will make the most out of the bunch at $4.8 million. Kela will make $3.725 million, Williams $2.825 million, Musgrove $2.8 million, Frazier $2.8 million, Taillon, $2.25 million, Feliz $1.1 million and Kuhl $840,000.

Bell had a breakout campaign in 2019, earning an All-Star nod by hitting 37 home runs and driving home 116 runs. MLBTradeRumors (MLBTR) projected Bell to get $5.9 million in his first arbitration season, though he was a tough player to forecast a salary for since he had two sub-1 WAR seasons before his platform 2019 campaign.

Kela was the big winner of the arbitration eligible players, beating his MLBTR projection by $325,000. He was suspended twice last year, once by the team for a violation of his uniform player's contract and also by the league for his role in a benches clearing brawl against the Reds. He also missed two months with a shoulder injury. Despite those issues, Kela had a terrific year on the field, finishing with a 2.12 ERA and 10 K/9. He is projected to be the Pirates' closer this year.

Like most of the Pirates' pitchers, Williams pitched very well in 2018 but struggled in 2019, finishing 7-9 with a 5.38 ERA. However, a player's first trip through arbitration takes their entire career into account to that point, and Williams did quite well in his first two seasons as a starter. As a result, he signed for a little less than MLBTR's $3 million estimate.

Musgrove had an up and down 2019 campaign, finishing 11-12 with a 4.44 ERA over 170.1 innings. MLBTR projected him to make $3.4 million.

Frazier was nominated for a gold glove at second base in 2019, his first season as full-time starter. While his bat was streaky, it averaged out to a very respectable .278/.336/.417 with a 99 OPS+. He was projected to make $3.4 million.

Taillon will miss all of 2020 after undergoing a second Tommy John surgery. While he pitched very well in 2018, his injury-shortened 2019 campaign did not give him much negotiating power. MLBTR's prediction of him signing for $2.3 million ended up being very close.

Since he will not pitch in 2020, Taillon's 2021 salary will be almost identical to this year's.

Feliz was projected to sign for $1.2 million by MLBTR. Feliz bounced between the majors and minors in the opening months of the 2018 campaign, but pitched well down the stretch. He had a 2.84 ERA from his promotion in June through the rest of the season and finished with a 3.99 ERA over 58 appearances overall.

Kuhl missed all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery. He has compiled an 18-20 record with a 4.37 ERA and 2.3 bWAR in his career. He was estimated to make $1.4 million.

The Pirates will pay their arbitration eligible players $2.66 million less than MLBTR's projections. This puts their projected opening day payroll at about $60 million.

Friday was the deadline for teams and players to exchange arbitration figures with one another.

Erik Gonzalez would have been arbitration eligible, but he signed a contract to ensure a roster spot in December.

Kela is going through arbitration for a third and final time, and Feliz is going through the process for the second time out of his scheduled four. This is the first of three scheduled arbitration years for everyone else.

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