About six weeks from now, the Pirates will have to decide whether to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. They'll have a ton of them, and a few of their decisions won't be easy. (Once MLBTR's Matt Swartz releases arbitration projections, I'll review them in a separate post.)
Below I've listed each arbitration-eligible player, his arbitration status, and his 2014 salary, which he'll almost certainly exceed in 2015 if he's tendered. A player's likelihood of being tendered could change depending on other moves the Pirates make before the deadline. For example, if the Pirates sign Adam LaRoche next month, the likelihood of Pedro Alvarez and Ike Davis being tendered would decrease. If not, and Alvarez tweaks his ankle running through the streets of Pamplona, tendering Davis would become an easy call.
Likely tenders (salaries via Cot's)
Neil Walker (third time of four), $5.75 million
Mark Melancon (second time of three), $2.595 million
Pedro Alvarez (second time of three), $4.25 million
Travis Snider (second time of three), $1.2 million
Chris Stewart (second time of three), $1 million
Tony Watson (first time of three), $518,500
Josh Harrison (first time of three), $513,000
Vance Worley (first time of four), $527,500
Jared Hughes (first time of four), ~$510,000
Worley and Hughes will be Super Two players, and they'll be easy calls. Of the rest, the ones you might wonder about are Alvarez, Snider and Stewart. The Pirates aren't likely to give up on Alvarez yet, and even if they were, they would probably tender him and then trade him. Snider and Stewart are both coming off productive seasons, and in Stewart's case, the Bucs' catcher situation is unsettled next season. Stewart is solid defensively and works well with pitchers, and his salary should still be modest.
Ike Davis (third time of four), $3.5 million
Gaby Sanchez (third time of three), $2.3 million
Davis arguably didn't justify his $3.5 million salary in 2014, but he's just young enough and has just enough of a track record that, in a vacuum, he might be worth tendering anyway. Outside that vacuum, though, Alvarez is probably a first baseman now, and it doesn't make sense to have Alvarez and Davis, both lefties, on the same team. That could mean the Pirates non-tender Davis, or it could mean they tender him and then trade him to a team desperate for a first baseman. The latter route is perhaps more likely -- as frustrating as Davis' lack of power was in 2014, Steamer projects Davis will hit .242/.344/.422 next season, which would make him helpful to someone.
Sanchez plays the same position as Davis and was downright bad in 2014, but he's right-handed, and whoever gets the bulk of the playing time at first base will likely be a lefty who can use a righty platoon partner. Maybe the Pirates will save money on Sanchez and look elsewhere, but my guess is that they'll tender Sanchez, going with the devil they know.
John Axford (third time of four), $4.5 million
Jeanmar Gomez (first time of three), $514,500
The Pirates didn't roster Axford or Gomez for the Wild Card game even though they had room for more relief options than usual, which probably tells you what you need to know. Axford's salary is inflated because he used to be a closer, and there's no reason to take a waiver-bait reliever to arbitration if he'll make around $5 million. I wouldn't mind seeing Axford back on a minor league deal next year, however.
Gomez's versatility is helpful, but his pitching is marginal. He would be cheap in arbitration, and you might make a case for tendering him based on his his results the past two years -- he isn't a good pitcher, but he's a good fit for the Bucs' system. The Pirates will probably feel they don't need to pay their long reliever more than the league minimum, however, particularly when they'll be taking so many other players to arbitration.