8-31-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
Since 2007 Bob Nutting has principally owned the Pittsburgh Pirates. Way back then the Pirates payroll was 38.5 Million and the top spenders in the game sat at 189.6 Million from the New York Yankees.
Believe it or not, that wasn’t even the lowest payroll in baseball that year, that honor goes to the Rays at 24.1 Million.
Throughout the years the disparity has increased as baseball left payroll caps and floors completely unchecked. By 2013, a good year if you’ll recall, the Pirates had the 20th ranked payroll in baseball at 79.5 Million, while the Yankees rested at 228.8.
None of this is meant to be a defense of Bob Nutting, simply to illustrate how long this has been a problem both in baseball and locally. If anything, you should take from this a realization that the league’s top end spending has gone up far faster than the rock bottom has. That’s on Bob Nutting and owners like him, they could and should do more.
We’ve pissed and moaned about money and payroll for so long and it really hasn’t mattered, hell it doesn’t matter now either. The bottom spenders tend to stay bottom spenders, except when they creep out of their ditch for a stretch they affectionately call a window.
So he did what all owners like him do, they hire a GM who promises if they are allowed to tear everything down and start over, they’ll provide a team that doesn’t require 200 million to win. Sure it’ll take time. Sure the fans will get pissed. Sure the players won’t enjoy playing here, but one day, after all that is over you’ll look up and have a young, cheap, dynamic team that requires little more than a few vet patches. Think about it, that’s the sales job. You can win, I can get it done if you’re willing to give me time, and when I ask for money, it’s not going to be a number that scares you because I’m so smart you just won’t need much.
Man is it harder to do than it sounds first of all. And, at some point you likely must spend, and spend real dollars. The Rays aren’t a model most cities can pull off, and I’m not even getting into organizational excellence, I’m simply talking about how likely fans are to accept never winning it all and never keeping stars.
Oh I know Wander Franco!!!! Shut up Gary you don’t know what…. Chill, and at least be smart enough to know he isn’t going to finish that contract out in Tampa.
Pirates fans can still get fooled into thinking that’s an attractive path because they watch a team that neither wins consistently or keeps their stars, so settling for one sounds super sweet.
I keep hearing that the Pirates should spend 100 million next year and that it’ll magically make them look much better.
First thing to realize is all the numbers you’ll see for payroll posted by sources will likely be in the mid 30’s, but reality is by the end of the year in the Forbes report, it’ll likely be close to 60 million. Give or take of course. You can complain that it’s not a true number, but then you also have to say the same for the Dodgers too right? Shave 30 mil off all the numbers if it makes you more comfortable, but I’m going to go with what is publicly accepted and verified. The only one of those is Forbes and until December I’ll have to rely on a best guess.
So let’s say next year they have to get it up around 100, the first thing you get to do is add up the difference and that of course gets you to 40 million. Next, take the guys who won’t be back or are already sold off and you get to closer to 55 million or so.
OK, so we know what we have to play with now. 55 million. OH I almost forgot, we’ll have arbitration awards and whatnot. Probably looking at about 13-15 there, so lets backtrack to that 40 million dollar figure.
We’ve identified some spots they have need and no prospects close. That’s Pitching, catcher, and first base.
For 40 million you should really get a chance to improve those spots drastically.
A couple starters would help tremendously. A solid vet lefty for the pen too. Have to get a catcher again. First base is tough, if only because there aren’t a ton available but make no mistake they need one.
That sounds like 40 million easy to me and it leaves plenty of breathing room for the positions they’re poised to fill internally, at least at this stage.
So, let’s do it. Spending time…
First up is Catcher.
Christian Vazquez – C – 2022 salary $7 Million – 32 years old
I believe the Pirates could get this done if they offered 2 years and were willing to go 10 Million per. I think this is a bit of an overpay, I also think the Pirates simply will have to do that at this stage. This provides a veteran to provide an easy on boarding process for whichever prospect you think will eventually take the role.
That leaves us with 30-ish million to spend.
Next we have to hit First Base.
Before I get too deep here, what’s available via free agency isn’t deep. Brandon Belt, Jose Abreu, Josh Bell, Carlos Santana. I can’t even guarantee 3 of those won’t retire, and Josh Bell isn’t going to take less than 15 million per, not with his agent, not without some length.
You could look at Yulieski Gurriel, but he’s 38 years old, and man, I don’t know what he has left in the tank.
After those, total drop off. Like Colin Moran is near the top of that list.
This one I think I’d have to take a different approach.
Swing a deal with Boston for Eric Hosmer. I know he’s not been great and he comes with 3 consecutive years of player options. Each worth 13 million and bluntly, he won’t get that on the open market, so he’d be foolish to exercise any of them. I can’t imagine Boston would require much return to get this done either, might even eat some of his 2023 salary to swing it.
So here it is…
Eric Hosmer – 1B – 2022 salary $20 Million – 33 years old
This would be equivalent to a 3 year 39 million dollar contract if it’s fully realized. It’s also important to note that he has a limited no trade clause, so he could easily say no to Pittsburgh, but a player who won’t exercise his option and still wants to play is eventually going to have to accept that his best bet is with a team that needs him, even as a diminished asset.
If he bets on himself, a season in Pittsburgh with the short porch in right he could potentially bet on himself and opt out after 2023, which would be fine by the Pirates I’m sure. Either way, this looks like the most attractive option to me.
And it takes our running total down to like 17-ish left to spend.
Have to go with Starting Pitching here right?
Listen, I’m going to dig in quick and go right after it.
Tyler Anderson – SP – 2022 salary $8 Million – 33 years old
I’m going after someone who performed well here, knows the staff, did really well after being traded to Seattle. Did even better after signing with the Dodgers. He’s earned a significant raise, and he’s for sure earned more than a one year deal.
I’d offer him 3 years, 15 Million per. I think that’ll get it done, and I think they could even get away with the 3rd year being a mutual option.
That leaves us 2 million more or so.
Have to get another pitcher here, and if we stick to 100 million as a pseudo budget Jose Quintana will have himself priced out. OK, I’m taking a stab.
Chad Kuhl – SP – 2022 salary $3 Million – 30 years old
Chad went to Colorado and put up a slightly over 5 ERA which there isn’t the end of the world. Estimating what he’ll get paid in free agency is tough to say the least. I don’t think he’d take 2 but let’s face it, the entire premise of this is fake so F it let’s exceed it. I’d offer Chad 4 million and an opportunity to start.
OK, so we probably build out about a $102 Million dollar payroll.
Now, do I think this is realistic? No.
Even if I think it should be. Unlike many I still remain confident that enough is coming internally that the team is going to get better through nothing more than waiting, but if you can spend a bit of money and eliminate the waiting and give the kids that are here and coming a better shot as tasting success, I say do it.
If Michael Burrows or Quinn Priester wind up showing they’re better than what you have, OK, trade someone. If Mason Martin jumps up and makes you look the fool for grabbing Hosmer, so what, we have a DH position. If Henry Davis or Endy Rodriguez outplay Vazquez, so what? You need a good backup too right?
Spend money, do it wisely and this team takes a jump. Spend money, do it with a weak wrist and nothing changes, maybe you even take a step backward.
As this entire process has unfolded, I’ve always maintained there is a difference between what I think they’ll do and what I think they should do. They can go several directions to get this done, the one I’m proposing today is entirely doable, yes even for this team, even in this market. Even with this owner.
Next Spring when they show up with much less than I’m asking for here, do remember they could have done more, and while I’ll move on and deal with what is, I never forget what could have been. At the end of the day, just because I have an idea of how I’d do it, I’m open to being proven wrong.