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Bucs offer contracts to 4 arb-eligible players

MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- As expected, the Pirates tendered 2018 contracts to all four of their arbitration-eligible players -- Gerrit Cole, George Kontos, Jordy Mercer and Felipe Rivero -- prior to Friday's deadline.

Pittsburgh had until 8 p.m. ET to offer a contract to all of the unsigned players on its 40-man roster, and the annual non-tender deadline yielded no surprises. The Bucs tendered a contract to each of their eligible players, including the four who are eligible for arbitration.

PITTSBURGH -- As expected, the Pirates tendered 2018 contracts to all four of their arbitration-eligible players -- Gerrit Cole, George Kontos, Jordy Mercer and Felipe Rivero -- prior to Friday's deadline.

Pittsburgh had until 8 p.m. ET to offer a contract to all of the unsigned players on its 40-man roster, and the annual non-tender deadline yielded no surprises. The Bucs tendered a contract to each of their eligible players, including the four who are eligible for arbitration.

The past two years, the Pirates parted ways with two relatively prominent arbitration-eligible players: Pedro Alvarez in 2015 and Jeff Locke in '16. The Bucs also non-tendered a pair of pre-arbitration players: outfielder Jaff Decker ('15) and catcher Eric Fryer ('16).

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The Pirates' four arbitration-eligible players this year presented no difficult decisions. Cole is their presumptive Opening Day starter, if he's not traded. Kontos finished the season as a late-inning setup man. Mercer is the starting shortstop. Rivero is Pittsburgh's closer and one of the Majors' best late-inning relievers.

The Pirates did not set those players' salaries on Friday. They simply agreed to continue through the arbitration process. The deadline to exchange salary figures is Jan. 13. If they can't agree to a deal by then, they will present their cases at a hearing in February that will determine the player's salary.

Either way, they will come at a cost. According to MLBTradeRumors.com, the Pirates' four arbitration-eligible players are projected to earn a combined $19.8 million next season after making a little more than $10 million in 2017.

Several Pirates who already have guaranteed contracts also call for raises next year, including Andrew McCutchen ($14.5 million in 2018), Francisco Cervelli, ($10.5 million), Josh Harrison ($10 million), Starling Marte ($7.5 million) and Gregory Polanco ($3.5 million).

Cole is entering his second of three arbitration-eligible seasons. He is coming off an encouraging year in some regards, having thrown 203 innings and struck out 196 in 33 starts, but he finished with a 12-12 record and a 4.26 ERA due in part to allowing a career-high 31 home runs.

Video: Adam Berry on Cole's rollercoaster 2017 season

Kontos, claimed off waivers from the Giants in early August, is arbitration-eligible for the third time. He will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season. The right-hander finished strong with the Bucs, recording a 1.84 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP in 15 late-inning appearances.

Mercer, approaching his third and final year under club control, hit a career-high 14 homers in 145 games last season. The Pirates have a handful of promising middle-infield prospects in the upper levels of their Minor League system, but the starting shortstop job will belong to Mercer for the fifth straight season.

Rivero recorded 21 saves and posted a 1.67 ERA with 88 strikeouts over 75 1/3 innings in his first full season with the Pirates. As a "Super 2" player, Rivero will be eligible for arbitration four times before reaching free agency.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole, George Kontos, Jordy Mercer, Felipe Rivero