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Where The Pirates Stand On 2017 Payroll And Pledges

The Pirates signed David Freese (top left), Ivan Nova (top right), and Daniel Hudson (bottom) using Francisco Liriano’s traded salary.

Harken back all the way to 2016.  Specifically, August 1st 2016 when the Pirates traded broken toy Francisco Liriano to the Blue Jays and shed his $13.7M salary he was due in 2017.  In order to cajole the Blue Jays to take the whole salary, the Pirates added two regarded prospects in] C Reese McGuire and OF Harold Ramirez to facilitate…

[Hey, while Kevin drones on about those players and other business stuff, this is Other Kevin.  Let me just tell you that neither McGuire or Ramirez are worth worrying over.  Both are trending downward and neither made the most recent Blue Jays Top 10 list from Baseball America.  The Blue Jays have a pretty mediocre system, too.  Ramirez made a grand total of 1 game appearance for the Jays’ AA affiliate before getting hurt, which is his thing.  McGuire continued to post uninspiring OPS’s for the Jays’ AA affiliate, too.  Let’s see what Kevin’s talking about now.]

…but at the time of the trade, Neal Huntington and the Pirates were denying this was a strict salary dump.  The company line was that Liriano’s $13.7M salary would be re-allocated to different players for the 2017 roster.  And guess what?  He was right about that part.  Here’s how Liriano’s $13.7M has been spent since the August deadline:

  • Re-signed David Freese in August for 2 yr/$11M. His 2017 salary is $6.25M
  • Signed RHP Daniel Hudson in December for 2 yr/$11M.  His 2017 salary is $5.5M
  • Signed RHP Ivan Nova in December for 3 yr/$26M.  His 2017 salary is $7.67M

That totals up to $19.42M, so hey, they actually did re-allocate Liriano’s salary!  And to three very usable pieces, including a starting pitcher that they absolutely stole in the form of Nova.

[It’s Other Kevin again.  Kevin’s going to start throwing a ton of numbers at you in a minute.  Let’s talk about David Freese, Matt Joyce, and Sean Rodriguez for a second.  Each of them signed identical 2 yr/$11M contracts, so that must be the going rate for a borderline starter/really good backup.  Which one of them would you have preferred, knowing now that all three were the same term and price?

I think Matt Joyce’s 2016 season was an unsustainable one built on lucky pinch-hitting success.  His productivity dropped as the year went on.  He was miserable against lefties.  Sean Rodriguez had a career year last year out of nowhere.  He’s a huge regression candidate that already has a litany of excuses built in — new team in Atlanta, brand new ballpark, pressure of being a team leader, etc.  Freese just did Freese-type of things.  He’s steady and unspectacular.  With the whole trainwreck that is Jung-ho Kang’s off-field life, the Freese signing was a very prescient one.]

At this point, the Pirates have $72.8M committed to 13 players.  They have a 6-man arbitration class that we project to cost $25.2M.  To round out the roster with 6 minimum scale players at $550,000 per player, add $3.3M.  That brings the current projected 2017 payroll to $101.3M.

Last year’s Opening Day payroll was $99.8M, so theoretically they have increased payroll to this point.  Neal Huntington was hemming and hawing at the beginning of the offseason that there wasn’t going to be much additional payroll for the 2017, so as of now this rings true.

The Pirates are still actively engaged in talks for White Sox LHP Jose Quintana and his 2017 salary of $7M.  He’s the kind of player you stretch a budget for (as ridiculous as that sounds in this case based on his pittance of a salary), so I don’t want to hear talk that they must cut payroll to make space for him, especially since based on their $240M estimated revenues they should be in the $115-120M range anyway.  If the Pirates are hellbent on staying in this $101M price range, then they can add Quintana and salary dump Antonio Bastardo and his $6.625M salary.  Just get some organizational soldier that will never get past AA, if you’re that needy to shed payroll.

So it sure seems like it’s Quintana or bust, in terms of additional players to be added prior to Spring Training, because of the Pirates’ self-imposed payroll limitations.  The Pirates are already implicitly stating that they don’t want to go full bore on contending, based on their payroll limits, so let’s see if Huntington pulls the trigger on parting with a packet of prospects (most of which will never live up to their billing) to fully contend on a budget.

About Kevin Creagh (274 Articles)
Nerd engineer by day, nerd writer at night. Kevin is the co-founder of The Point of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Creating Christ, a sci-fi novel available on Amazon.