(USA Today Photo)

Pirates sign All Star closer Melancon and avoid arbitration

The Pittsburgh Pirates avoided arbitration with All-Star closer Mark Melancon and four other players on Friday.

Melancon, who led the majors with 51 saves last season, agreed to a one-year deal worth $9.65 million.

Pittsburgh also reached deals with shortstop Jordy Mercer, catcher Francisco Cervelli and relievers Tony Watson and Jared Hughes.

Watson had a 1.91 ERA in 77 games in 2015. Watson was eligible for arbitration for the second time. Hughes reached Super Two arbitration eligibility in 2015, meaning he has four years of arbitration instead of the usual three. He had a 2.28 ERA in 76 games last year.

Mercer agreed to a one-year deal with $2.075 million. Cervelli will receive $3.5 million, Watson landed $3.45 million and Hughes will get $2.175 million.

Mercer played strong defense, but hit .244 with a .293 on-base percentage and three home runs. He also missed time due to a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, the result of an on-field collision.

Cervelli will be a free agent after 2016. In 2015, he set career highs for games and plate appearances while hitting .295 with a .370 OBP.

By settling with all eligible players, the Pirates will avoid arbitration hearings. In 2015, they had three: They lost to Pedro Alvarez and Vance Worley and won against Neil Walker.

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