PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates avoided a trio of arbitration hearings by agreeing on Friday to one-year contracts with starter Gerrit Cole, shortstop Jordy Mercer and reliever George Kontos, sources told MLB.com. But for the second straight year, they could be headed to a hearing with their closer.
Friday was the deadline for clubs to exchange salary figures with the arbitration-eligible players to whom they tendered contracts in December. As usual, there were a flurry of deals reached to avoid a hearing around the 1 p.m. ET deadline. The Bucs had four arb-eligible players: Cole, Mercer, Kontos and closer Felipe Rivero.
The Pirates exchanged salary figures with Rivero, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. His representatives requested a $2.9 million salary, Heyman reported, while Pittsburgh filed at $2.4 million. The Bucs are known as a "file-and-trial" club, so they likely won't continue to negotiate a one-year contract with Rivero.
The Pirates may try to sign Rivero to a multiyear deal before going to a hearing, however. Rivero expressed interest in a long-term extension while appearing at PiratesFest last month.
If they don't reach a deal, each side will present its case before an arbitration panel between Jan. 29 and Feb. 16. That hearing would then determine Rivero's salary for next season. The Pirates went to a hearing last year with then-closer Tony Watson and won.
Rivero is a Super Two player, meaning he is arbitration-eligible for the first of four years after making close to the Major League minimum salary last season. The 26-year-old lefty emerged as one of the Majors' most dominant relievers last season, logging a 1.67 ERA and 0.89 WHIP with 21 saves and 88 strikeouts in 73 appearances.
Mercer will earn $6.75 million this year, according to a source. Cole will also make $6.75 million, according to multiple reports. Kontos is due $2.725 million, a source confirmed.
Cole, going through arbitration for the second time amid serious trade rumors, received a $3 million raise over his 2017 salary of $3.75 million. The 27-year-old went 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 203 innings over 33 starts last season.
The agreement on Friday solidified Cole's salary, but not who will pay it. He still could be traded this offseason, and any team interested in acquiring him can now do so with cost certainty. Cole, who is under club control for two more years, has been linked to the Astros and Yankees as the Pirates consider a rebuilding effort this year.
Mercer, in his third and final year of arbitration eligibility, earned $4.325 million last season. The 31-year-old slashed .255/.326/.406 with a career-high 14 homers and 58 RBIs in 145 games last year. He remains the Pirates' starting shortstop heading into Spring Training, and he is eligible for free agency at the end of the season.
Kontos is making his third of four trips through the arbitration process and his first with the Pirates. The 32-year-old right-hander made $1.75 million last season with the Giants and Pirates as he posted a 3.39 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 66 1/3 innings over 65 appearances. He was at his best down the stretch, recording a 1.84 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in 15 appearances for the Bucs after being claimed off waivers on Aug. 5.