Pirates avoid arbitration with Neil Walker and James McDonald

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UPDATE: Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Walker will get $3.3 million while McDonald will get $3.025 million.

7:31 PM: The Pirates announced this evening that they have avoided arbitration by agreeing to one-year contracts with second baseman Neil Walker and right-hander James McDonald. No word yet on the terms involved.

Walker was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter as a Super Two player after batting .280/.342/.426 with 14 home runs, 69 RBI and a .768 OPS last season. The 27-year-old requested $3.6 million and was offered $3 million by the Pirates when arbitration figures were exchanged earlier this month. The two sides have previously expressed interest in a contract extension, so it’s possible they could revisit the possibility down the road.

McDonald was also arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, though not as a Super Two. The 28-year-old right-hander is coming off an up-and-down campaign in which he posted a 4.21 ERA and 151/69 K/BB ratio over 171 innings. He requested $3.4 million and was offered $2.65 million from the Pirates when arbitration figures were swapped this month.

Bryce Harper will participate in the Home Run Derby if he makes the All-Star team

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Bryce Harper has, in recent years, declined participation in the Home Run Derby, with his last go at it coming in 2013, losing to Yoenis Cespedes in the final round. With the All-Star Game taking place at Nationals Park in Washington, however, he has changed his mind, saying today that he will compete if he is selected for the All-Star team.

Harper is currently second in voting among National League outfielders, so he stands a pretty good chance of making it. Even if he falls off in the voting, you have to assume that the powers that be will nudge NL manager A.J. Hinch to select Harper as a reserve, partially because of his actual power — he does have 19 homers so far this year — but mostly for his star power.

Simply put, you know dang well that both Major League Baseball and the Nationals want a home town guy with big time star power in the Derby, even if he’s not having as good a year as he’s capable of. As such, figure to see Harper hitting long balls in D.C. on July 16.