Pirates face non-tender choice with 3 players

Dickerson, Kela, Feliz all arbitration-eligible heading into 2019

November 28th, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- Last year, the non-tender deadline came and went without any drama for the Pirates. This year's deadline figures to be quiet as well.
The Pirates have until 8 p.m. ET on Friday to officially offer contracts to the unsigned players on their 40-man roster. That includes three players who are eligible for arbitration and those who have not yet reached that point. It does not include the following players who already have guaranteed contracts: , , , Chris Archer, , Felipe Vazquez, and .
Typically, clubs "non-tender" arb-eligible players whose projected production does not match the value of their expected salary. Pittsburgh non-tendered in 2015 and Jeff Locke in '16, for instance, but tendered contracts to all four arb-eligible players (, , and Vazquez) last winter.
Clubs can also non-tender pre-arb players who no longer have a role on the club, as the Pirates did in 2015 with and in '16 with . That would be one way to clear a spot on their 40-man roster, which is full.
But there don't appear to be any difficult decisions among the Pirates' three arb-eligible players: Corey Dickerson, and . Dickerson is a Gold Glove Award-winning left fielder. Pittsburgh acquired Kela at the Trade Deadline to bolster its bullpen. Feliz struggled last season, but the Pirates valued him enough to target him as part of their return for Cole.
Let's look at where each arb-eligible player stands prior to the non-tender deadline.
Arb-eligible year: Third/final
2018 salary: $5.95 million
Dickerson hit .300 with an .804 OPS while playing elite defense in left field after the Pirates scooped him up during Spring Training. It was a smart acquisition at the time, and it looks even better after the season Dickerson had. Dickerson totaled 3.8 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference, making him the Pirates' second-most valuable player and their best position player.

The more relevant question might be whether the Pirates and Dickerson would agree to an extension that could keep Dickerson in Pittsburgh beyond 2019. The Pirates would have to extend themselves financially, and Dickerson -- coming off of a career year -- would have to be willing to delay his first chance to test the open market. Whether it happens or not, Dickerson will return next season as an important part of Pittsburgh's attempt to improve on this year's 82-win campaign.
Arb-eligible year: Second
2018 salary: $1.2 million
Pittsburgh dealt prospects Taylor Hearn and Sherten Apostel to acquire Kela, who is under club control for two more seasons. His closing experience could come in handy when Vazquez is off, and in August he showed a willingness to pitch in a variety of different situations. , and Kela will form the high-leverage bridge to Vazquez.

The former Rangers closer figures to get a nice raise after posting a 3.29 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with 24 saves and 66 strikeouts in 52 innings over 54 appearances last season.
Arb-eligible year: First
2018 salary: $575,500
By default, Feliz is the player most at risk of being non-tendered. He actually enjoyed a solid start to last season, putting together a 2.70 ERA in his first 22 appearances as a setup man. Things rapidly went downhill after that, with a 7.81 ERA and one temporary demotion to Triple-A.

Still, Feliz was part of Pittsburgh's return for Cole and he's only 25 years old. He's shown a good fastball, albeit without consistent command or reliable offspeed stuff to complement it, and his 3.80 FIP indicates he should be putting up better numbers than his career 5.28 ERA. The Pirates need a more stable middle relief corps next season, and with only a moderate hike in his projected salary, Feliz should get another chance to prove himself.