Pirates Avoid Arbitration with Mercer, Kontos and Cole; Rivero will Go to Arbitration

Today is the deadline for Major League teams and players to exchange arbitration figures. The Pittsburgh Pirates have four players who are eligible for salary arbitration this year. Gerrit Cole, Felipe Rivero, Jordy Mercer and George Kontos could all come to an agreement on a deal for 2018 before the deadline. If they don’t, then the players and team will exchange salary figures. Once the deadline passes and figures have been exchanged, the two sides will head to an arbitration hearing.

Here are the projected arbitration prices according to MLB Trade Rumors:

Jordy Mercer – $6,500,000

Gerrit Cole – $7,500,000

Felipe Rivero – $3,100,000

George Kontos – $2,700,000

Mercer is in his third and final year of arbitration, while Cole and Kontos are second-year players, and Rivero is first-time eligible.

We will post updates in this article as the players settle on contracts today. In the past two years, the Pirates have settled on deals with everyone before the deadline except Tony Watson, who ended up losing his case last year. There is a 1 PM deadline to reach an agreement today. I’ll note that the deadline could pass without us hearing anything right away, as some of the news is slow to get out. We should know for sure on all four players before 2 PM.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are one of many “file and trial” teams, meaning once the deadline passes, they will no longer negotiate with the player and the two sides will go to an arbitration hearing. If there ends up be a hearing (or hearings), they will be scheduled sometime between January 29th and February 16th.

If the two sides go to a hearing, the arbitration panel will then decide which side submitted a salary figure closest to their value and that side will get the figure they submitted. For example, if the Pirates thought Rivero was worth $3 M, and he asked for $3.5 M, the arbitrators could decide he’s worth $3.3 M and he would still end up getting the $3.5 M he submitted because it’s the closer number. We will know the submitted figures for each side today if any players don’t come to an agreement before the deadline.

Check back for updates. We will change the title each time the article is updated.

UPDATE 12:37 PM: Robert Murray is reporting that the Pirates and Jordy Mercer settled for $6.75 M. That’s slightly higher than the MLBTR estimate and a nice increase over the $4.325 M that Mercer made in 2017.

1:05 PM: Multiple sources are reporting that Gerrit Cole and the Pirates agreed to a $6.75 M deal as well. That’s $750,000 below the MLBTR estimate, but still $3 M more than his $3.75 M salary in 2017.

3:40 PM: Bill Brink has the numbers for George Kontos, while we still wait to hear what happened with Felipe Rivero. Kontos got $2,725,000, which is just $25,000 over the MLBTR estimate and $975,000 more than his 2017 salary.

6:25 PM: Took awhile, but Felipe Rivero and the Pirates will go to an arbitration hearing. Pirates filed at $2.4 M and Rivero is at $2.9 M according to Jon Heyman. A hearing will be scheduled sometime in the near future.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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Bill W

Nutting was hoping he hit the powerball last weekend now with these arb awards he is falling into a deep funk. How can I trade all of the above and still afford new pierogi uniforms.

Daryl Restly

Question time…why is Felipe Rivero only projected for 2018 to have 8 saves on the year? Surely he’ll have more than that given that he’s projected for 70 innings.


Blaine Huff

Gotta say…relative to it all…Kontos did very well.

Kinda imagining how the missus would respond if I walked in the door and told her I had a so-so year at work and had to “settle” for a raise of $975,000.


If she truly loves ya and wants you to be the best you can and reap all the rewards you deserve I hope she’d point out that Jordy just got a 2.3 million dollar raise for a so-so year 😉

Blaine Huff

I’ll have to point that out the next time the issue of money comes up…

“Who do you think I am, Jordy Mercer?”

Patrick Kelly

Have to think that Cole only being paid $6.75M will be helpful in his trade talks. Lower cost now means lower cost next year and a larger surplus WAR value. Might entice trade partners to increase their offer a little.

J Nader

It’s also a lower salary for them to base next years arbitration case off of, so it’s basically 2 years of savings


absolutely. could totally be the difference between getting a less and a more desired prospect

John W

Only one more year of jordy… Newman- you need to start hitting son.


Tucker. Tim said he’s a leader too and we need that badly.


Tucker only seems about a half year behind Newman, if that. It would still be nice for Newman to start hitting the ball, as higher trade value for a prospect is never a bad thing!


MLB Trade Rumors reported the Kontos and the Pirates settled – how much was not known.


2.7 mil

Bruce G

I imagine if Cole were traded that there would be a good chance the new team would want to discuss a longer-term deal.


Surprised to see Cole’s salary. Thought it’d be closer to 7.5M honestly.


Shows how little they care about the dollars – they just want out? Boras has access to all of the projections and could have had $7 mil or more if they really wanted it.


Or the amount they agreed to is what he earned on the scale developed for arbitration’s they would never take less than deserved.


Eh… it was more of ‘how is Mercer paid the same amount as Cole’ thinking. I don’t think Cole or Boras would be like whatever and take any salary from the Pirates because they want out. Also don’t think they would not not care about the dollars.


Yeah, good point. Is there a “usually this much increase for each arb” thing? I mean Cole got 3M more than previous salary so it was more than what Mercer’s raise was, but still thought Cole’s salary would be higher than Mercer. :$ I guess I still don’t fully understand arbitration processes, lol.


Huh. I guess my mistake was comparing their last year’s production/value for an arb process. My conclusion is I’ll just leave the players, agents and FOs do their jobs, lol.


No, you are right – this thing has hair all over it and we may find out later what drove the Boras/Cole camp to accept the amount they did. It may seem confusing, but Arbitration in the MLB is a whole lot better than Arbitration in other industrial collective bargaining agreements.


I wonder if Cole agreeing to terms will expedite being traded?

Michael D

I was figuring that as soon as the signature ink dried, Neil was on the phone to the Yankees, Astros, and whoever else would be interested, to let them know that Cole’s value is now set, so let’s now haggle over how much their prospects are worth in return.


I saw today on MLB that the Yankees have given Darvish 48hours to accept their contract. If he does that will eliminate them from Cole.


I hope one of those teams is the Angels.


Cole for Ohtani, straight-up??? DEAL!! lol


The Angels have some interesting prospects and it would be nice to see the Stro’s and Angels compete for a top of the order SP.

joe s

Honestly does anyone really care about this? It is not your money and no matter what they get, they probably make more money in a year then you make in your lifetime. So let it happen and ignore it.

Scott K

Thanks for letting me know what I should care about, Joe.

Joe S

Just don’t get me mixed up with the other joe s



I know what you’re saying… I’d hate to be confused with the real Ryan Vogels__t!!

joe s

Change your name on the site to protect your input, this way there can be no confusion.


it matters because the more they pay these players, the less they can give to other players.

whether these players get 17 million combined or 23 million combined, Neal will still be allowed to spend a total of… say… 100 million on players.

We should want them to only have to pay 17 million on the players because that’s 6 million more they could pay a FA.

Brian Z

that’s the most idiotic statement I’ve read here, and there’s been a lot of idiotic statements. It’s NEWS, nothing in the NEWS really impacts anyone’s life but we still read and watch it.

john fluharty

Impact can be measured a lot of ways. A lot of news has emotional impact for me, and that is not always trivial. Arbitration discussions obviously have no perceived value for joe at all. For others, it is another way to see how the Pirates run their business & how they treat their players. Do they handle things like other teams? Are they penny pinchers? Arbitration can be the source of bad feelings since you have argue about what a player’s skills are worth.


I love that uniform on Rivero.


Hope instead of avoiding arbitration with Rivero, they extend him. Not sure how likely but that’s what I’m hoping for


He has three years left- why extend a reliever now?


If you can get Rivero for less than 3 million this year you take that deal. Extension talks can wait til next year after he adds 30+ saves to his career stats and his arb price shoots up.


For Cole, they should go as low as they can where they think they can still win. He won’t be here next year. And may not even be here by the arbitration date. Aim low and enhance his trade value a little bit. Who cares if you make him mad.

Phil W

It’s simply a math game to minimize the expected value, where expected value = team $ offer x probability of arbitrator accepting + player/agent offer x (1-probability of arbitrator accepting the team offer). The team is always going to try to minimize this value and the agent is always trying to maximize it. The difficult part is to model the arbitrator’s decision based on different values submitted.

Scott K

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you’re a FIP guy and not a fan of ERA to best value a Pitcher.

Scott K

You’re not looking at big picture. Pirates would be best served in the long run by submitting what they believe is a fair offer. Players and Agents understand economics of baseball, what they will question is the appearance of bias towards a player.

J Nader

But if you aim too low, it decreases your chances of winning. And the arbitrator doesn’t pick an amount in the middle, it’s one or the other, so if you shoot too low, you end up paying Cole what he’s asking for


And then the chances of trading him are further delayed.


Arbitrator decides the final amount, so low balling him makes zero sense. Coming to an agreement is what counts..


I don’t agree, if he is going to be traded, then who cares!!!!!


because the less he gets paid, the more he’s worth in prospect cost


if you submit an obviously low-ball bid, the player can incrementally increase his arbitration number and the arbitrator is more apt to side with the player. This will tend to make him less tradable and the return is likely to decline. It is best to make a reasonable offer, whether you anticipate retaining or trading.


The team acquiring him cares, probably a lot.


I see where you are coming from, from a Pirates fan prospective where a player making $8-10 million dollars is expensive. My thinking is that a team interested in Cole; Yankees, Astros, Cubs, Dodgers will barely blink at his arb salary if they truly view him as a 2-3 starter.


What he gets this year also influences what he gets next year.


They Yankees are trying to stuff as much talent they can on their roster and stay under the lux tax. i bet every million is important to them right now.


We took care of pissing him off the year before his 1st year of Arb when we gave him a whopping $40,000 raise after he was one of the best pitchers in MLB the year before.


Serious question for you, if the Pirates had paid him $1 million, would it have changed anything?

Secondly, he was not upset about the salary he earned, he was miffed that the Pirates had not added in his bonus for finishing top 5 in the Cy Young voting.


I guess we will never know what a higher amount would have returned in attitude. May not have meant a thing in the long term, but then Cole watched the Pirates and Hurdle go out of their way to assure that Rodriguez and Vogelsong would max out on their incentives. Crap for brains.

Randy W

Yeah and the Pirates only gave him 8 million dollars before he ever toed a mound as a pro. Cheapskates.

Paul M

Every team gives 40,000 raises, not just the Pirates. It makes very little sense to give players more money than you are suppose to.


Jacob DeGrom received the same pay. It’s how the MLB process works, it’s how all business works! Do you get a substantial raise each year because you did your job? I wish we all did.


No, but if my contract says I will receive a raise of a certain amount if I perform at a level necessary to win an award related to my profession, lets call this award “The NL All Star Team”, then I expect that raise to be reflected in my contract. I also don’t think the excuse, “Oh sorry we forgot” is acceptable. I also don’t think it is acceptable for my employer to then go back reduce the bonus they gave me in the new contract by the same amount as my incentivized bonus from my prior contract to only add the money back, adjusting the language to note that I received my incentive bonus netting 0$. You would think the mistake they made in not including my incentive bonus would just be slapped on top of the figure they gave me netting me the incentive bonus. No, no, no this particular employer goes by the name of Slob Nutter and no matter how small the incentive bonus is, he will find a way to make sure I get as little as possible for my effort. Yea, my performance would drop after that cause, I would be looking for a new place to work.


Yeah, that was stupid and cheap of the Pirates – but certainly not surprising – its the Pirates. But in the long run, it wouldn’t have mattered in terms of re-signing Cole long-term – that was and is never going to happen.


Don’t forget the “mistake” of not including his incentive bonus either, that was even more Pirate-y. I personally think his displeasure was reflected in his play after that day which was certainly detrimental to his eventual trade return. This ownership sucks.


All teams do this. Only rarely will teams give players significantly more than they have to pre-arbitration.

Paul M

Exactly. People complaining about that is just the pirate bashers trying to create ways to bash the Pirates.

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