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.