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Opening Day payroll projection, Peter Gammons on Pirates’ OF, and Taillon is No. 5


SOUTH HILLS –  Six Pirates filed for arbitration on Tuesday – Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Mark Melancon, Gaby Sanchez Travis Snider and Vin Mazzaro  – with players like Walker, Alvarez and Melancon in for a relatively significant spike in earnings. The Pirates eliminated a couple other arbitration cases by agreeing to terms with Charlie Morton and Chris Stewart earlier this winter.

So with the team planning for life without A.J. Burnett, and with Neal Huntington noting at the winter meetings that it was unlikely the Pirates would sign a QO free agent (thereby eliminating the majority of impact free agents remaining on the market) what better time to release a projected 25-man Opening Day payroll?


You’ll notice a couple things: the Pirates are not paying any player eight figures in 2014 … they Pirates will have only a slight bump in payroll from their Opening Day 2013 payroll as Burnett’s salary is off the books and they Pirates have only committed $11 million guaranteed to three players in 2014 this offseason (Morton, Edinson Volquez and Clint Barmes)…. It’s also clear that the Pirates have enough financial flexibility to be a player on some of the remaining QO’d free agents if so inclined, especially considering the influx of new national TV dollars.



Player                                       2014 salary 

Russell Martin                  $8.5 million

Wandy Rodriguez            $7.5 million ($13 million total –  $5.5 million from Astros)

Andrew McCutchen      $7.458 million

Francisco Liriano            $6 million (opportunity to earn $2 million in incentives based upon innings)

Edinson Volquez            $5 million

*Neil Walker                       $4.8 million

Jason Grilli                         $4.25 million

Charlie Morton                $4 million

Pedro Alvarez                    $4 million

Jose Tabata                         $3.167 million

*Mark Melancon              $3 million

*Gaby Sanchez                  $2.3 million

Clint Barmes                      $2 million

*Travis Snider                   $1.4 million

Chris Stewart                      $1 million

*Vin Mazzaro                      $800,000

Nine players in pre-arb       $4.7 million

 *I employed MLB Trade Rumors arbitration projections for the six aforementioned players.  

25-man OPENING DAY PAYROLL: $69.87 million

(2013 OPENING DAY PAYROLL:  $66.85 million)

(2013 FINAL 40-MAN PAYROLL: $74.4 million)


The Pirates opened last season ranked 27th in baseball in payroll and finished 25th in final, 40-man payroll numbers. The Pirates will likely again rank in the bottom five in total payroll to open 2014. (That’s probably not what you hoped for back in October).


So where is all that money going?


It will not be going into the amateur draft like it did from 2008-12 when the Pirates spent an MLB-record $51.4 million on bonuses over a five-year period due to new spending constraints. I’m not sure where the profits/savings are earmarked. I think the Pirates would be wise to attempt to lock up as much as their young core as possible to long-term deals (Alvarez, Gerrit Cole, Starling Marte, etc.) and I’m sure the Pirates are examining such avenues, though the Boras factor complicates things with some assets.


The Pirates did not want to go to three years on James Loney because looking ahead they have  a number of key players that will be entering  expensive arbitration years. But the Loney offer showed they are willing to add at least $7 million to payroll in 2014 for the right fit. They’re trying to keep financial flexibility but there’s no doubt there’s room for payroll growth. Agents believe every Major League owner made tens of millions in profit in 2013.




From the esteemed Peter Gammons:


“The single most significant winter ball story has been 22 year old Pirate outfielder Gregory Polanco, the Darryl Strawberry lookalike who was the MVP in the Dominican as he put up an astounding .428 on base percentage. He is close to being another huge chip in the rebirth of a franchise that had the third best record in the National League in 2013. … Says one National League GM: “Polanco, Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte will be the best outfield in the league. Their all-around games are really good”


If you aren’t already, you should be excited about this outfield if you’re a Pirates fan.


This echoes what Cardinals GM John Mozeliak told me in October saying the Pirates have a chance to field the most “athletic” outfield in the game.



Pirates’ top RHP prospect Jameson Taillon ranks fifth on’s list of top 10 right-handed pitching prospects.







  1. PhillyPirate says:

    I was just thinking about the payroll earlier today and the thought struck me that maybe the Pirates don’t think about payroll in single year time periods but rather over 3-4 years. In my business, my group has a 3 year funding budget, we can distribute that however we want and it doesn’t have to be equal each year. Is it possible that the Pirates approach payroll this way.

    Say they think they can afford $90 million/year hypothetically. Maybe they think of it in terms of a 4 year / $360 million budget and that by keeping payroll at $70 million this year, they get and extra $20 million to distribute over the following three.

    I think it is really important to consider the arbitration costs that the Pirates are going to incur in the next few years. Pedro, Walker, Melencon, etc are all going to get more expensive pretty quickly. Take a look at Tim Williams payroll projection page; in 2016 the Pirates already have over $25 million committed to just 3 players (Cutch, Tabata, Morton). That year Walker will be arb4; Pedro will be arb 3 (each might get $10-12 million or more); melencon will be arb 3 and might be looking at $6-8. That is a hefty chuck of payroll for just a few players. Out further you need to think about what Cole and Marte could get.

    We always think that young players are great because they get 6+ years of control, but salaries are going up so quickly that some markets can’t even afford the arbitration awards players are getting. The Rays are looking to deal Price because his Year 3 arb number is going to be so high. If players like Cole/Marte/Taillon/Polonco reach their potential the Pirates may face the same issue.

  2. Warren says:

    Russell Martin’s 2014 salary is $8.5M (not $9.5).

  3. Travis Sawchik says:

    Yep. Fixed

  4. NMR says:

    “I’m not sure where the profits/savings are earmarked.”

    Oh, I’m sure we all have a very good guess as to where they are earmarked…

  5. NMR says:

    Certainly makes a ton of sense, doesn’t it?

    Unfortunately, I don’t see how we – as fans – can possibly hope this is actually how Bob Nutting runs the Pirates. If this were the case, where is all the money saved from slashing payroll between ’08-’12? It didn’t all go to the draft.

    That is the most frustrating aspect of the rebuilding process for me. I was and still am on board with tearing it down in order to rebuild, but I genuinely believed that the money saved during the process would allow for peices to be added when the time came. I’m a sucker, I suppose.

  6. Bizrow says:

    Unfortunately, payroll will always be the No 1 issue with the current ownership :-(

  7. The Gunner says:


    I didn’t know Tabata was going to make over $3 million this year, I thought his # was just under $2 million. I guess that good quarter of a season like he had last year is sufficient justification. I guess I have to get with the times.

  8. macchamp74 says:

    Where is the money going?
    Skiing anyone? :) :)

  9. Jim S. says:

    Agreed, Biz. Some teams (Detroit, for one), have owners with net worths that are so high that they don’t necessarily rely on their MLB team to produce an operating profit each year. They seem fine with breaking even, or even losing money occasionally. Unfortunately for us, the Pirates are not owned by billionaires, and they clearly aim to make not only a profit every year but a profit in a range that is acceptable to them. That is their right, but it is very frustrating for fans.

    The Bucs will not stretch beyond a certain $$ amount on payroll, in my estimation, even if they felt it would greatly increase their chances of winning the World Series. They simply will not do it. I, like a lot of fans, get frustrated by this, and wish the Nuttings would sell the team to an owner with deeper pockets whose main goal is to win the World Series, rather than one whose main goal is to reach a certain profit target primarily, and a World Series secondarily.

  10. LeeFoo says:

    Mac……so THAT’S who is paying for your junkets???

  11. Jim S. says:

    Regarding that Pirates OF that will be completed with the arrival of Gregory Polanco, a lot of us here, including Travis, have been predicting that for a lot longer than Peter Gammons has heard the name, Gregory Polanco. So, I don’t believe his recent revelation is much of a revelation to anyone here. I fully expect Mitch Williams, Billy Ripken, Harold Reynolds and the rest of the MLB Network “industry experts” to start making all sorts of similar proclamations about Polanco this summer.

    John Mozielak is used to praise being heaped on him and his Cardinals staff. I believe he recognizes that the Pirates are stacking solid draft after solid draft the past few years, and he respects that a great deal.

  12. macchamp74 says:

    Although I do not visit Seven Springs or Laurel Highlands Ski Resorts!!
    Nutting gets my money at PNC Park instead.

  13. macchamp74 says:

    Frank Coonelly said last spring training the anticipated boost in revenue from new TV deal would mostly go to payroll.
    (Although he did not say what year the boost would occur)

  14. NMR says:

    For which of Mr. Nutting’s businesses was he referring to? :)

  15. NMR says:

    If Tabby hits his career average during his time before Polanco arrives, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t traded next winter. Possibly this deadline.

  16. macchamp74 says:

    Take your pick. :)

  17. Jim S. says:

    I read a comment on DK’s blog by Arriba that he remembers reading a year or so ago that the Nuttings are worth $1 Billion. I honestly did not have any idea they were worth nearly that much. If true, that makes the penny pinching even more frustrating.

  18. The Gunner says:

    The Bucs need another decent 10 to 12 weeks out of Tabby before Polanco arrives. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

  19. The Gunner says:

    Was Frank on the hooch when he said that?

  20. Steelkings says:

    Just think how much money falls off the salary structure next year.

  21. joel says:

    There are a few people that would disagree with you NMR. Try Cutch, Alrarez, Cole, Marte, Martin, Tallion, Polanco, Hereida, Bell, Mc Pearson, AJ, Wandy, Melancon, Grilli, and 2 #1s last year that have the potential to be all-stars. That does not sound like he is stuffing all the money in his pockets. Just admit the Nuttings are spending their money their way and not yours.

  22. LeeFoo says:

    Joel…couldn’t agree with you more.

  23. LeeFoo says:

    It’s good to see that the “Nutting is cheap” mantra still lives on….and on….and on. :)

    To be honest, I am not the happiest guy concerning the whole baseball economic setup (see Kershaw’s Krazy Kontract), but I think Nutting is doing what I think is the best of a bad situation.

    Even if he was worth TWO billion, he’s never gonna spend like LA, NY, Tex or Chicago. It just ain’t happening. However, I DO disagree with Jim S above and feel that Bob WILL spend IF he thinks its the right move to get us to the World Series. However, that is the conundrum…HOW do we spend it? I’m not sure who out there is really worth the big bucks at this point in time (and don’t get me going on the injury prone Drew, lol).

    Just sit back, relax and deal with the economic reality. In all likelihood Cole, etc, are gone when they start making big bucks. It’s just the way it is.

    And no owner is going to EVER come riding in on a white horse to bail us out. Even Mark Cuban, our supposed savior, came out and said, essentially, that he wouldn’t spend ‘willy nilly’.

    As for myself, I am just going to sit back and enjoy the youngsters giving those big market teams the fits and let my wife worry about finances…..oh wait….EYE do the bills….never mind.

    Daddy Foobucks

  24. LeeFoo says:

    Btw, I just saw this P2 post AFTER I posted my little essay

  25. Steelkings says:

    Foo Man,
    There was a documentary on PBS about the Rich. Rich people were describing the upper class in this documentary. One guy said that anyone who is worth 5 million to 50 Million is poverty level rich. Just trying to hang onto their money. Middle class rich are people who’s net worth is from 50 Million to 1 billion. They are trying to stay in the middle class and not fall below the line. And then their are those from 1 Billion to infinity who as described by the interviewee, Can buy anything they want without hazard.

    As far as the “Nobody out there worth the big bucks” thing……Your right!…. NOW!..There WAS players worth the “Big Bucks”.

    I found Hurdles discussion on Justin Morneau very interesting. I believe he said they wanted Morneau back but were not sure if they wanted to part with a 2 yr / 12mil deal. Someone needs to tell TBMTIB that they are in the Major Leagues and If Kershaw can get 250 Million then Justin Morneau is worth 12 million over 2 years.

  26. NMR says:

    You and Tim trotted out the biggest strawman there is. No conversation about the Pirates payroll should ever mention NY, BOS, TEX, CHI, or LA. Absolutely zero point. Nobody expects the Pirates to come close to those guys.

    Anybody that claims there is no place where money can be spent to improve the team simply doesn’t understand where the Pirates are at on the win curve. They’re still living in 2010. Another 2-3 wins at this stage can make an enormous difference.

    By the way, you wanna know why people think Tim is a homer?

    Quotes like this: “Jordy Mercer could end up a top ten shortstop over a full season.”

  27. NMR says:

    Oh, and what happened to all the Tim WIlliams talk of the Pirates being able to afford a $90m payroll last Fall?

    Now payroll suddenly doesn’t matter? That dude is sooooo predictable.

  28. Warren says:

    If you extrapolate Jordy’s numbers over a full season, he “COULD” end up a top-10 SS. I don’t see what is remotely wrong with that statement?

    Oliver projects him to have a 4 WAR season next year – which would in fact be a top-10 MLB SS.

  29. BostonsCommon says:

    That Oliver projection gave Jordy 600 ABs, and apparently had him playing SS with Ozzie Smith’s glove. Both of those aint happening. Neither is a 4 WAR season.

  30. PetroSteel says:

    I think that the real number should not just be about major league payroll. It should be about how much an organization (Owner) spends on both Major league payroll and draft picks and scouting. Maybe the Pirates are in the top half when considering all the money that they spent on building the club and continue to spend on building the club over the last 5 years? What’s the value of having the best (freking) minor leagues (for gosh sakes)? That came with a price…don’t you know??? That would be a number that would be interesting to see.
    PhillyPirate…Great point! They have to look at a projected plan of costs into the future. How can they spend like crazy today when they may need that money in the future (My ex-wife could never understand that…Oy vey!).

  31. LeeFoo says:

    Steel…in what universe is Justin Morneau worth $6 mil a year? Well, I guess he is worth it if someone pays him that.

    Just as Volquez is NOT worth $5 mil………..until some stupid team pays him that much.

    oh wait….

  32. LeeFoo says:

    NMR…are you SURE you like Tim W?

    :) :) :) :)

  33. PetroSteel says:

    Worth the risk based on upside. JM, i think we kinda know that he is going downward. But, My guess is that he will hit 26 HR and have 82 RBI’s. Sometimes this is a game of luck..

  34. Warren says:

    Upside? He’s 32…not 23.

  35. Andrew says:

    Lee that argument will not ever die, fans will always want more, they rarely quantify how much more, but always more. I personally could care less about owners, to me they just are, they exist, I never understand the love for the certain owners and reserve my contempt for the truly corrupt, Frank McCourts, Roman Abramovich of the world. And involved owners is rarely good, see Arturo Moreno.

    NMR has most well thought-out argument, that avoids the emotional appeal and understands the stricture of the Pirates’ market. Forbes list the Pirates having a positive operating income every year (which is before taxes, amortization,) since 2008 and it is feasible that some of that profit could be reinvested in current and future payroll. I question how impactful this strategy could be and whether this strategy would be sustainable. What do the Pirates do when that source of payroll funding runs dry, hope the revenue has expanded to support the higher payroll?

    That said I agree with NMR’s premise, a marginal increase of even $5 million in payroll this off-season may have allowed the Pirates to sign Josh Johnson, or Loney, or make Stephen Drew signing less unattractive.

    I love the draft money argument, Pirates spent $52 million over five drafts which was $18 million more than the average small market team over the same period, but was $10.4 million/year. Pirates draft spending this year in the restricted system $8.8 million, so what is this windfall going to get you, 40% of Volquez. For as far as Nutting’s net worth want do fans want? Nutting to sell $200 million is assets then increase payroll by ~$30 million for five years?

    So the Nuttings are cheap will always be there, which is unfortunate because there are reasonable argument to have about payroll once you sift through the muck.

  36. NMR says:

    You can like someone and still be critical of them, Foo.

  37. NMR says:

    Haha, exactly Boston. Oliver should be embarrassed of that projection. Not even close to reality.

    Warren, why isn’t the same argument being made for Gaby Sanchez? Extrapolating his .8 WAR over a full season makes him just as valuable as James Loney. The answer is because Gaby can’t hit righties, and neither can Jordy.

    Look, I am all for sabermetrics, but calling Jordy Mercer a top 10 shortstop for that reason is complete abuse of statistics. I don’t see how anybody can watch Jordy Mecer play shortstop and say that he has the potential to be one of the 10 best in the game. We’re talking about the guy who didn’t even start in the playoffs, remember?

  38. The Gunner says:

    I think the BMTIB will regret not signing Morneau.

  39. Steelkings says:

    Whats wrong with that statement? Of the 32 SS’s at least 6 of them will spend 1/2 the season on the DL. 6 more will be absolutely lousy. So over the course of a whole season isnt that the same as saying Mercer will be average at best? :)

  40. NMR says:

    Not if he’s one of the six lousy ones!

  41. Steelkings says:

    In that regard the Marlins will Foo-lisly pay Garret Jones 5 million in 2015.

    And Maybe we should put a price tag on the position. What is a quality 1st baseman who can hit from both sides make? 7.5 Million a year? Thats what you would have with Morneau and Sanchez.

  42. Steelkings says:

    Well…Ok then!

  43. Steelkings says:

    Well, ok then!

  44. Jim S. says:

    I’m enjoying this team as well, Foo. If I gave the impression that I wasn’t, I apologize. And, I am not a Nutting basher. I think we have, maybe the smartest GM in MLB right now, as well as a young, exciting core in Pgh with more to follow. I do, believe, however, that extra money has flowed into the coffers this year from the national TV contract that they are not spending at this point.

    As I said, that is their right. I certainly don’t begrudge owners the right to make a profit. But, I also believe there is a trust between professional sports owners and the public that does not exist with a normal business. The tax paying public has helped Mr. Nutting financially by funding the most beautiful ballpark in MLB. And, the fans supported the team very well for most of last season. I expect attendance to spike to near 2.5 million this season if the team stays in the thick of the playoff race. We’ll see if profit or winning is the #1 goal going forward.

  45. NMR says:

    Ha, the irony is that I’ve been accused by many internet tough guys of being “pro-Nutting”. Guess you just can’t win with everyone.

    I completely agree with you. Nutting isn’t “evil” or any of the hyperbole that gets thrown around. Not even close. He just does the absolute bare minimum, IMO, and I believe I’m allowed – as a fan – to want more.

    To answer your question, investing money saved during the rebuilding years would absolutely NOT be sustainable. But it absolutely COULD help sign a few key free agents to support the young team being built. I don’t think that can be argued. As a fan, I don’t see why that wouldn’t be better than it going towards Nutting paying down more of his own debt, for instance.

    FWIW, I think you did a great job in your 4th paragraph of explaining why spending more than any other team in the draft over those years isn’t a very bid deal at all. The difference between that amount and the average cost of doing business in the draft just simply isn’t that much relative to the economics of baseball.

  46. NMR says:

    Foo’s more worried about value than wins. Really cannot wrap my head around that, from a fan no less.

    I don’t think Justin Morneau was very good last year, I don’t think Justin Morneau will be very good next year, but I’d much, muuuuuch rather pay him $12m to platoon with Gaby than give up a big leaguer like Justin Wilson or a prospect like Nick Kingham for 1B that suck.

    The point is still to make the team better, right?

  47. There have been times I’ve defended ownership on payroll. But right now they are earning this reputation of being cheap. I constantly hear people saying they want the Pirates to run their organization like the Rays. Well, the Rays have been spending a higher percentage of their revenues on payroll than the Pirates have for quite some time. In 2010 the Rays extended their payroll to 47% of revenue. That Pirates haven’t been close to that. Not last year, and not next year. As it stands now they will be going into 2014 at less than 35% of revenue going towards the MLB roster.

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