BRADENTON, Fla. — When I spoke yesterday with owner Bob Nutting about the team’s payroll, he twice referred to the “cycles” of the team. As I understand it, those cycles are sort of a combination of where the team is in terms of the level of talent on the club and where the players are in terms of their salary situations (i.e. 0-to-3 guys, arbitration-eligible guys, free agency-eligible guys).
“What we’ve said consistently with payroll is we must make sure we’ve allocated appropriate resources at the various cycles of the team,” Nutting said.
The past couple of years, the front office has been focused mostly on restocking the farm system. That’s why the Pirates have been among the biggest spenders on the draft and international signings.
“The level of the payroll today is more a reflection of the players we have and their (career status),” Nutting said. “What I’m most pleased about is we have the team in a position now where we can make decisions about payroll, on drafts and allocation of dollars from a baseball standpoint. It’s driven by the needs at the time and the opportunities we see at the time. … We have an opportunity to be strategic as we supplement (with players). We can be strategic as we focus this year on the (No. 1 overall) draft pick, which is an opportunity we hope not to have again.”
At this point, Nutting and president Frank Coonelly can say whatever they want about how they spend the team’s money. Yes, the payroll is the lowest in the majors and a lot of folks — the fans, the players’ union, the players — aren’t happy about it. But the Pirates are spending more than a lot of clubs for amateur talent.
The next big test of Nutting’s commitment to winning will come when it’s time to sign Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, et al to multi-year contracts.