Pirates Sanchez accepts 1-year contract

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The Pirates and first baseman Gaby Sanchez agreed on a one-year, $1.75 million contract Friday, avoiding arbitration on the same day teams and arbitration-eligible players exchanged salary figures.

The team exchanged figures with representatives of the three other arbitration-eligible players: Neil Walker, James McDonald and Garrett Jones.

Sanchez, eligible for arbitration for the first time, earned $483,000 in 2012. His 2013 contract carries performance incentives that could boost his salary.

He joined the Pirates at the trade deadline after the Pirates sent Gorkys Hernandez and a draft pick to the Miami Marlins. He hit .241 in 50 games with the Pirates, splitting time with Jones at first base and likely will continue to do so this season.

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said the team prefers to sign players before arbitration hearings.

"But, if that becomes unavoidable, that's where we take it," he said.

Walker and McDonald are arbitration eligible for the first time, and Jones is arbitration eligible for the second time. Those three and Sanchez were among 133 major-league players who filed for arbitration by the Tuesday deadline.

Arbitration hearings will be scheduled Feb. 4-20, though teams and players can negotiate until the arbitrator rules.

"Unfortunately, we work hard to avoid it," Huntington said of arbitration hearings in which teams try to prove players are not as valuable as they think they are.

"If we're able to find that common [financial] ground, we avoid it."

The Pirates entered the offseason with eight arbitration-eligible players, but the team traded relievers Joel Hanrahan and Chris Resop and signed pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Karstens to one-year contracts.

Walker, 27, has been the Pirates starting second baseman most of the past three seasons. He is a "Super 2" arbitration qualifier because he is among the top 22 percent of players with more than two but less than three years of major league service, earning him an extra year of arbitration eligibility.

Walker hit .280 with 14 home runs and a .342 on-base percentage last season, but missed most of September because of a herniated disc.

He earned a little more than the league minimum $480,000 last season and could get up to $3 million in arbitration.

McDonald, 28, went 12-8 with a 4.21 ERA last season, his fifth in the majors. He likely will reap about $3 million in arbitration. Like Walker, he earned close to the league minimum last season.

The Pirates acquired McDonald in 2010 in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. After a brilliant first half in 2012, he struggled after the All-Star break.

Jones, 31, had a career year in 2012, hitting .274 in 145 games. He hit a career-high 27 home runs and tied a career mark with 86 RBIs.

Jones lost his arbitration case with the Pirates last season. He earned $2.25 million in 2012 and likely will see his salary nearly double. He was a Super 2 player last offseason.

The Pirates went to arbitration hearings with Jones and Casey McGehee last season and Ross Ohlendorf in 2011.

Before that, the previous time the Pirates went to an arbitration hearing was in 2004 with shortstop Jack Wilson.

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Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino.


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