SOUTH HILLS – While many in Western Pa. are skeptical of the additions, the Pirates have addressed the majority of their needs – starting rotation, first base, utility player, bullpen – as we approach the New Year.
Jon Niese and Ryan Vogelsong are slated to round out the rotation – at least until the Super 2 cut off is reached.
John Jaso (BuccoBlog endorsed signing) will be the left-handed part of a first-base platoon.
Sean Rodriguez was re-signed to fill the utility role off the bench, not to be a defensive replacement at first base (that’s up to you, Jaso). … Juan Nicasio was ostensibly brought in replace Joe Blanton as a versatile relief pitcher and potential spot starter. …. The Pirates might need another left-handed bullpen arm (or is Kyle Lobstein the answer?). Perhaps they can upgrade another area of the 25-man roster, but it looks like much of their roster-building work this offseason in mostly complete.
But in an offseason coming a record attendance year, with increasing TV/digital revenues and revenue sharing, it appears the Pirates will fall short of reaching a $100 million, 25-man roster Opening Day payroll – barring a significant move.
Like Harrison as an everyday 2B or a Super U. If only he was left-handed …(Horner photo)
Twenty-two major league teams opened with a $100 million, 25-man payroll last season. The Pirates opened with a $90.1 million payroll.
While this space does not advocate spending just to spend, and, hey, maybe the right fits have existed in trade and free agency according to the Pirates’ assessments to date this offseason , the club is also in line for their lowest payroll increase since the club cut payroll entering the 2011 season.
The Pirates’ Opening Day 25-man payroll increased 25 percent from 2012 ($51.9 million) to 2013 ($66.8 million). It increased 7.4 percent from 2013 to 2014 ($71.9 million) and jumped 22.4 percent to last season ($90.1 million). Those numbers are all from Cot’s Baseball Contracts. The Pirates, at the moment, are in line for a 3.2 percent Opening Day increase – provided the arbitration projections from MLBTR below are reasonably accurate.
Opening Day payroll estimate:
Francisco Liriano $13.7 million
McCutchen $13.2 m
Jon Niese $9m
Michael Morse $5m
Josh Harrison $5m
John Jaso $4m
Starling Marte $3.3 m
Juan Nicasio $3m
Jung Ho Kang $2.5m
Sean Rodriguez $2.5m
Ryan Vogelsong $2m
11 players – $63.2m
MLBTR ARBITRATION PROJECTIONS
Mark Melancon – $10.0m
Tony Watson – $4.6m
Jeff Locke – $3.5m
Francisco Cervelli – $2.5m
Jared Hughes – $2.2m
Jordy Mercer – $1.8m
Chris Stewart – $1.6m
7 players – $25.6m
So that’s 18 players projected to earn $88.8 million
As of now seven pre-arb players like Gerrit Cole and Gregory Polanco will add about another $4 million
So as we enter the New Year, with the Pirates addressing a majority of their needs, they are in line for approximately a $93 million Opening Day 25-man payroll.
Rob Biertempfel reported the Pirates had a max budget of $105 million, though that is likely for the 40-man roster.
There should be some payroll flexibility remaining but will the Pirates use it at some point in 2016? What is clear is the gap between the Pirates and Cubs has grown significantly entering the New Year.
>>Just because Pedro Alvarez failed to make the conversion to first base is not a reason to think John Jaso will have similar struggles. Recall, bat-first catchers used to often spend some of their off time at first base.
>>Neil Walker might not have been so undervalued by the Pirates. A couple offseasons ago, the Pirates offered Walker a three-year, $27 million extension that would have bought out his first year of free agency, according to Rob Biertempfel. Walker clone, Daniel Murphy, signed a three-year, $37 million pact in free agency last week. While the deal is worth $10 million more over a three-year period, it comes two years after the Walker proposal with two years of inflation tacked on – and Murphy was negotiating as a free agent.
>>The Pirates were probably wise not to extend Walker into his 30s. Wrote former Baseball Prospectus writer Nate Silver back back in 2005 on the aging curve aging curve for second baseman:
The typical second baseman has already achieved 95% of his peak value by age 23–versus just 84% for the league as a whole. These guys just don’t improve their games as much as players at other positions. And making matters worse, second basemen decline somewhat faster than normal in their thirties.
This point has been made before, but second base is something of a bastard position–it’s where you wind up if you aren’t athletic enough to play shortstop, but don’t have the bat (or the arm) for third. Almost no players are selected as second basemen in the amateur draft, and it’s rare to see a second baseman on a top prospect list. That is, second base is the one position where players are selected out for their lack of a skill, rather than their possession of one; it should be no surprise that they don’t tend to age well.
>>Moreover, in a vacuum, Josh Harrison might be an upgrade in 2015. According to the ZiPS Fangraphs.com projection Harrison will out-WAR Walker 2.3 to 2.2.
Harrison is not left-handed ….
>>One can make the argument that the club should have placed a priority on keeping Walker over Pedro Alvarez and Mark Melancon among their pricy arbitration-eligible players. As I wrote last week, the Pirates play in a RHP-dominated division and had the most plate appearances against RHP in all of baseball last week. Moreover, no NL park suppresses right-handed power more than PNC Park.
The Pirates will have six right-handed regulars in their lineup vs. RHP – one more than last season with Harrison replacing Walker.
>>Was Elias Diaz too much to surrender for Mitch Moreland? Perhaps considering the club’s 2017 catching depth. The Pirates need a bridge solution to get to Reese McGuire at catcher.
>>Even if Jameson Taillon is ready to contribute at the MLB level this season, he figures to be on an innings limit after not throwing a full-season minor league inning since 2013.
STAT OF THE WEEK: 18th
Jaso’s MLB rank in walk rate (12.6 percent) since the start of the 2010 season. The Pirates got back to saber-metric offensive ways with the Jaso signing. We approve of it in this space.
HE SAID IT:
Walker at the Mets holiday party:
“Obviously, coming into this situation is really exciting. It’s a great opportunity to do the same thing they did last year and more. I’m just looking forward to helping this team, and hopefully Met nation has me as one of their own.”