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Bucs sign Morton, tender contracts to five others

Charlie Morton avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract Friday night with the Pirates, who also made contract offers to all five other arbitration-eligible players still on the roster.

Closer Joel Hanrahan, right-handed starter James McDonald, second baseman Neil Walker, first baseman Gaby Sanchez and versatile Garrett Jones were tendered contracts prior to the 11:59 p.m. ET deadline.

Earlier on Friday, the Pirates had acted on two others up for arbitration: Jeff Karstens was designated for assignment -- clearing an immediate roster spot for newly signed catcher Russell Martin -- prior to formally being non-tendered; right-hander Chris Resop was dealt to Oakland.

Morton's move was anticipated. Recovering from Tommy John surgery, he will not be available until the second half of the season, and under those circumstances the Pirates were not willing to contest arbitration with him. However, Morton had expressed an interest in remaining with the club, and that was accomplished by having him negotiate terms outside of the arbitration process.

He earned $2,445,000 last season and agreed to a new deal for $2 million, according to an MLB source. The 29-year-old had been projected to earn $2.6 million through arbitration.

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington will continue negotiations with the other five until the February schedule of arbitration hearings, and may explore a long-term deal with at least one: Walker, eligible for arbitration for the first time as a Super Two qualifier.

"You never want to go to arbitration," Huntington said. "I much prefer finding a middle ground, but if we have to [go to a hearing], we have to. We have a pretty good feeling for where [arbitration awards] fall. Before we get to hearings, we'll listen to the agents' sides and work diligently to find a middle ground."

Karstens' DFA status was a mere technicality until the Pirates could complete and file the non-tendering paperwork.

"It was a tough decision," Huntington had said about Karstens, who had also been given an opportunity to try to negotiate a new deal. "We worked hard to come to a pre-tender agreement with Jeff and his agent and also attempted to work out a trade for him, but were unsuccessful.

"We're grateful for what Jeff has done, and wish him well."

The 30-year-old right-hander went 14-13 with a 3.59 ERA the last two seasons as a regular member of the starting rotation. Karstens was 5-4 during a 2012 season in which he was able to work only 90 2/3 innings between shoulder and hip-flexor injuries.

Acquired from the New York Yankees (along with pitchers Daniel McCutchen and Ross Ohlendorf and outfielder Jose Tabata) in a July 2008 deal for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady, Karstens compiled a 23-35 record with a 4.31 ERA in five seasons with the Bucs.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Joel Hanrahan, Garrett Jones, James McDonald, Charlie Morton, Gaby Sanchez, Neil Walker