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Pirates tender all arbitration eligibles, non-tender Eric Fryer

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Various Pittsburgh writers are tweeting that the Pirates have tendered contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players, except for Jeff Locke, who'd already been designated for assignment.  They have non-tendered catcher Eric Fryer, who is not eligible for arbitration.  The players who were eligible for arbitration -- apart from left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who agreed to a 2017 contract earlier today -- were right-handed pitchers Gerrit Cole, Juan Nicasio, Drew Hutchison and Jared Hughes, left-hander Tony Watson and shorstop Jordy Mercer.

The one mild surprise was Hughes, who had a poor 2016 season.  Despite a solid 3.03 ERA, Hughes posted a 4.77 xFIP and -0.4 fWAR.  Hughes' ERA has always been much lower than his xFIPs, which probably reflects the fact that it's easier to escape damage when you habitually enter in the middle of an inning, with one or two outs.  (Anybody else remember the long sequences of two-out RBI singles that used to plague Zach Duke?  Getting three outs can be tough.)  Despite his poor performance, the Pirates remained stubbornly loyal to Hughes.  Their loyalty was interesting in light of their rationalization for trading Francisco Liriano.  Hughes actually threw a lower percentage of his pitches for strikes than did Liriano while he was with the Pirates, 37.7% to 40.6%.  There's an even better argument to be made with Hughes than with Liriano that hitters figured him out and stopped chasing pitches out of the strike zone.  In any event, it appears that Hughes will be back in 2017.

The Pirates picked Fryer up on waivers in early July, when they were struggling with catching injuries.  Fryer played 36 games for Pittsburgh, posting an anemic 54 OPS+.  He has no options left and had no chance of making the team out of spring training unless two of the team's top three catchers were hurt.  With Brady Dragmire lost on waivers, the Pirates now have two open spots on the 40-man roster.