3-19-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
The Pirates payroll is low, like really low. It rests around 35 million and it’ll by season’s end likely just crest 40. This happens as players come and go, minor league salaries turn into minimum salaries, and this is without a potential extension which would change that number all together, even if only by a couple million.
We don’t need history lessons or timelines to know that’s too low to swallow without talking about. This isn’t going to be making excuses for having a low payroll, as much as talking through it. Because a lot of the discussion tends to be more about hitting some number, I think understanding where money should and could have been spent would go.
Let’s look at Catcher to start because it’s clearly a position that isn’t going to be top notch likely. Roberto Perez comes in making 5 million. Now, that’s about 2.5 more than Jacob Stallings is gonna make this year. We can get into the virtues or lack thereof in the trade another time, I’ve made my feelings clear already there. Point is it’s an I’d say rare situation where the team is actually going to pay more for, hell let’s be nice to Roberto here a bit, the same production. So, this position is an addition to salary. A tiny drop in a tiny bucket.
Third Base is a lock. Ke’Bryan Hayes is going to start, as he should. He’s also going to make the league minimum. Now, I’m quite sure most of you are more than happy with him, even if you still feel he needs to show you something, but I’d bet most of you are pretty good with him being the guy there. So, no need to get an upgrade there. I mean you could certainly argue Kris Bryant would give you more production right? At least now? Well, ok, if you’re still good here we’ll move on.
First Base the Pirates retained Yoshi for 4 million brought in Daniel Vogelbach for 800K and already had other options all of which will make league minimum. It’s also safe to say the top prospect at the position isn’t likely to make a 2022 debut. So clearly while they spent a bit here, and as with catching its a weird spot where they actually spent more than Colin Moran probably would have cost, this still isn’t a safe upgrade to say the least. I mean Yoshi could be quite good here but you can’t say that’s a sure thing.
So you can say this is a spot where they really could have upgraded, or at least spent reasonably for a couple years and that’s even if Mason works out, even longer term might have been ok here, maybe even smart. You guys know all the names out there. Freeman is a laugher, I mean c’mon that was just never ever going to happen. But a Kyle Schwarber might have been a nice play. He manned the position for the Red Sox, looked like he played it well, even if not, you have the DH to fall on now. Hell you still could have brought in Yoshi too. Point is, when you want to have an argument about payroll being low, these are all the things we have to look at. All around the diamond there are different situations. This is one where I think an investment could have really had an impact. Now, if you only care about that number, this would only raise it like 10-14 million.
Middle Infield, I mean what can I say? Newman, Tucker, Castillo, Castro, Chavis, Park and Cruz are all in the mix this year. Can it be better, oh yeah, sure it can. But you have another wave coming that could be ready to compete next Spring like Nick Gonzales, Liover Peguero, Hell Triolo and Bae are on that list.
Now I don’t think all of those are winners but I damn sure want to see a bunch of them get a chance. Even if you are super aggressive as a fan and say you’ve seen enough of Newman, Tucker, Park, hey we’re being really aggressive so let’s add Chavis too. OK, if you do that, yes you could add for this year, maybe next too. Is that how you’d want to play it? Boy I don’t know, I think I’m kinda ok with just leaving it be this year, but I can certainly see why some of you would rather just see something better right now.
Still it’s a tough choice. It’d be hard to get anyone who’s a locked in upgrade without promising years, and I’m not sure it’s worth it in the end. I guess, I’m open to this but all in all, it’s not a position I’d try to upgrade right now.
Outfield it’s clear they have openings. Beyond Bryan Reynolds nobody is a lock. They have a bunch of prospects, but nobody who’s for sure. I see one slot here they could fill that would still leave room to have prospects get their shots. They could surely spend here. 10 even 15 million over a couple years wouldn’t be an issue. I like the prospects but there are 4 spots plus a DH to fill so spending here would be fine. Go get a guy I think we’d all feel a bit better.
Now I guess to be fair you can hold out hope that Alford and Allen contribute, certainly possible, but let’s face it, a team trying to win doesn’t hope at 4 or 5 spots on the diamond.
Starting pitching, always room for more or better. This club has legitimately 11-12 guys who could start, but nobody you can call proven. 5 or 6 who could be really nice pieces, but none who are locks. That’s normal at this stage in a build and while you want to see them all get a shot, buying something steady to lead them makes sense. If you spend money here, I’d want it to be on the top end of the rotation, no need for more low end competition.
Maybe we’ve gotten it to like 70 with all this now and I’d of course go get another arm or two for the pen so let’s say 80.
I don’t know if that’s enough to get in the dance or win a division, I kinda doubt it if I’m honest but purely as a fan, none of this would kill the plan, or destroy the progress of a prospect and it might just be a bit more fun.
I guess the reason for this entire thing is, everytime I see someone sign somewhere next comes a chorus of ‘the Pirates could have signed this guy, but you know why’. And there’s an element of truth to that of course, but there are also legitimate baseball reasons why it’s not always the right fit or need even.
Not all of these prospects are going to work out, that’s just fact, but for a team like this to actually win, they need that group of 15-17 players who are pre-arbitration, making league minimum need to turn over from much of this group to more productive youngsters coming up and augmented with expensive, or at least more expensive veterans.
That’s the hope, and the same old story too. Will Nutting spend when the holes are there and the team is ready? A whole lot of this conversation is really about this. For instance, you don’t really think signing Carlos Correa right now makes this team measurably better as much as you want Nutting and in turn Ben Cherington to show you he’s going to spend. Even if it’s too early and means nothing, you want the message. Even if it’s nothing more than feeling the excitement of for once being the team who got the big get.
That feeling is legit, I’ve felt it too. The last time I felt it was when the Pirates swung a trade for Archer. Hey I remember how it turned out, just being honest, my first and gut reaction was for once we got the big fish.
They could and should spend more money, but let’s at least have conversations about what, and where instead of yelling out some number that makes you feel good.
2 thoughts on “A Difficult Pirates Payroll Discussion We Just Have to Have”
All good points.
It’s pretty clearly not happening this season, but I think that strong veteran starter next season is my foremost target. Not that 2022 is apples to apples–maybe not even apples to oranges–to 2012, but Burnett and Liriano were 100% in the top three of that rotation, Burnett’s 2014 cross-state temper tantrum aside. The Pirates don’t get over the hump if one of those guys is removed from the equation, let alone both.
I think it’s reasonable to expect enough outfield prospects to work out among the five or more knocking at the door, as well as several guys nipping at their heels too. It’s a matter of degree, though–will any be above-average regulars? If not, I’d argue that’s an early indicator that the development system isn’t as improved as Baker believes. Same goes for Contreras, Yajure, Kranick, etc. All should be at least back-end MLB starters, and I’d argue Contreras should be at least a mid-rotation starter from what he’s shown.
Even with all of that (haven’t even mentioned the top prospects), there will be holes to fill, absolutely. With how paltry these payrolls have been, there will be no excuse not to fill the holes with high-end free agents.
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