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Pittsburgh Pirates avoid arbitration with 6 remaining eligible players

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The Pittsburgh Pirates agreed to terms with each of their six remaining arbitration-eligible players ahead of Friday's deadline.

The Pirates came to terms Thursday with outfielder Travis Snider on a $1.2 million contract for the upcoming season, via Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

On Friday, the team and first baseman Gaby Sanchez agreed on a $2.3 million deal, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Sherman also reported that the organization avoided arbitration with pitcher Mark Melancon for $2.595 million and third baseman Pedro Alvarez for $4.25 million.

To round out the last of the Pirates' arbitration-eligible players, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that the team came to terms Friday with second baseman Neil Walker and relief pitcher Vin Mazzaro for $5.75 million and $950,000, respectively.

The Pirates' official Twitter feed later confirmed the reports.

Snider, 25, hit .215/.281/.333 in 261 at-bats last season. While his 111 appearances were the most in his career, he only started 53 games, which equated to 48 percent of his games played—the lowest in his career.

During his time with the Pirates, Snider has struggled with injuries, but it was recently revealed that his toe injury during the 2013 season was more serious than previously thought, as Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review notes. Snider had surgery following the conclusion of the season and the goal is to focus on getting his swing back, as per Sawchik:

"During exit interviews with manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington in mid-October, Snider was told the priority is to get his swing back to where it was when he was a top prospect with the Toronto Blue Jays."

With top-prospect Gregory Polanco in the system and on the brink of seeing his debut, Snider has an added incentive to round into form, with the hopes of a healthier outlook.

Sanchez, 30, earned $1.75 million in 2013 and hit .254/.361/.402 in 264 at-bats. Serving primarily in a platoon-role with Garrett Jones, Sanchez hammered left-handed pitching, hitting .333/.448/.539 in 102 at-bats. Against righties, the former Marlin hit just .204/.304/.315 in 162 at-bats.

With the acquisition of Chris McGuiness this offseason, there will be some competition for the first base job, though Sanchez is the favorite at this point.

Melancon, 28, was excellent in an eighth-inning role last season, amassing a 1.39 ERA overall. He led the team in holds (26) and allowed a team-low one home run in 71 innings pitched, among regular relievers. The right-hander finished the year with the second-highest WAR among the pitching staff (2.0), as per ESPN.

In what was somewhat of a shock, as Biertempfel points out, Alvarez avoided the hearing and managed to strike a deal with the Bucs. Alvarez had a career year, leading the National League in home runs (36) while eclipsing the 100 RBI mark. He also led the NL in strikeouts with 186.

Walker, 28, was productive in 2013, smashing 16 home runs—a career high. He also cut down on his strikeout totals of the past two seasons and was dependable in the field. His 4.95 range factor per game was tops in the league among second basemen, as per baseball-reference.

Mazzaro, 27, who was acquired in 2012 after being designated for assignment by the Kansas City Royals, also had a banner year. He went 8-2 in 73.2 innings pitched and managed a 2.81 ERA.

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors ran a series depicting possible salary expectations for the upcoming season, and based on the projections, the deals made don't stray too far from the educated guess. Of note, Sanchez's projected $2.3 million deal was nailed, while Walker's $4.8 million projection was off.

It remains to be seen if further upgrades will be made to the roster, but the debate over further competition at first base will likely linger. ESPN.com's Jim Bowden (via Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors) mentions Kendrys Morales as a potential impact bat for the Pirates to add before the season.

Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 12.

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