Edinson Volquez pitched for the Pirates in the Wild Card Game in his only season in Pittsburgh.
Photo by Charles LeClaire, USA TODAY Sports
After taking a deep dive into specific payroll calculations from the CBA and how they apply to the Pirates opening day roster in 2018, I thought it would be fun to take a look back and see where the Pirates ? payroll was and how it has progressed over the years using the same criteria. This is Part 3 of a six-part series which will examine the payroll on a year-to-year basis, looking at starting payrolls, mid-season additions, arbitration raises, amongst plenty of other roster machinations.
These recaps will be more of an overview, so for a primer on the intricacies of how the payrolls are calculated, see the original 2018 piece.
Next up is 2014, the second year of what would be three consecutive playoff appearances for the Pirates (Factually speaking anyway — I personally have trouble calling a one-game play-in the ?playoffs ?).
Major League Salary: It may have been to the fans’ dismay, but the Pirates were not active in free agency following up their first playoff appearance after 20 years of futility. The team only brought in $7,500,000 in free agent salary, while losing $24,500,000. Edinson Volquez was brought in for one year and $5,000,000, and he ended up starting the Wild Card game and had a solid season for the Pirates.
For a second straight year the Pirates were not extremely active during the season as far as additions go. The Pirates made a few in-season trades, but didn ?t see much of a return. They acquired Ike Davis and a large portion of his salary ?$3,134,615 ?from the Mets, but he probably didn ?t quite produce as the Pirates were hoping. They also swapped struggling relievers in Jason Grilli and Ernesto Frieri. The two were making very similar salaries, so it wasn ?t a cost-saving move by the Bucs originally; however, Frieri continued to struggle and ended up being outrighted off the roster, saving payroll dollars in the process. Of the $4,000,000 originally committed to Grilli to start the season, the Pirates ended up with $2,937,363 in 40-man payroll between he and Frieri at season’s end. Outside of these trades, the only other notable move was picking up John Axford along with his $1,137,363 in remaining salary off waivers from Cleveland.
One payroll issue I will admit I wasn ?t sure how to handle was that of the Jose Tabata fiasco. The Pirates signed him to a six-year extension in 2011, guaranteeing his salary in the process. However, the 2012-16 CBA stipulates the following regarding outrighted players:
If a Uniform Player ?s Contract is assigned outright to a Minor League club, the Club shall exclude from its Actual Club Payroll such pro rata portion of the Salary attributable to that Contract Year as the number of days during the championship season that the Player was off the Major League Club ?s 40-man roster bears to the number of days in the championship season
If anyone remembers the Tabata situation, it was indeed a fiasco, as I described. He was outrighted several times off the roster, but always accepted the assignment as to not lose his guaranteed contract. So, while the Pirates were on the hook for the entire contract, this rule specifies that any outrighted salary doesn ?t count against payroll, which is what I ?m tracking here. In the end, I prorated the days Tabata was on the roster at his $3,000,000 base salary ?along with signing bonus and buyout ?to calculate his final 40-man commitment to the Pirates. In total, they saved $1,075,321 on Tabata between those three commitments on the season.
Along the same lines as the Tabata situation but one treated differently ?Wandy Rodriguez struggled mightily in six starts at the beginning of the season, and the Pirates eventually released him. Because Rodriguez ? contract was terminated and not outrighted, his entire $13,000,000 salary was counted against the 2014 payroll:
A Player whose Contract is terminated by a Club during the championship season ?for failure to exhibit sufficient skill or competitive ability shall be entitled to receive termination pay from the Club in an amount equal to the unpaid balance of the full salary stipulated in paragraph 2 of his Contract for that season.
This is why the Pirates are always hesitant to release an underperforming, high-priced player; better to squeeze any production out at that price than recognize the sunk cost ?the very definition of the ?Sunk Cost Fallacy. ?
Finally, the Pirates saw arbitration increases of $6,795,000 between 4 players, while contracted salaries for 7 other players increased $19,050,000. This is obviously where the year-to-year increase in payroll can be attributed.
Major League Salary Starting Total: $75,971,000
Major League Salary Final Total: $79,113,044
Minor League Salary: The season started with $815,000 committed to 12 players. The Pirates were active on waivers, picking up several players ?Josh Wall, Wirfin Obispo, Dean Anna, Angel Sanchez, Tommy Field, and Ramon Cabrera ?that would not see the majors that season. This was also the final season Gregory Polanco spent time in the minors.
Here are some familiar names who had three or more stints in the minors in 2014: Brandon Cumpton, Jared Hughes, Casey Sadler, and Jeff Locke.
Minor League Salary Starting Total: $815,000
Minor League Salary Final Total: $754,323
Signing Bonuses: The Pirates had Pro-Rated Signing Bonuses on the books for Russell Martin, Starling Marte, Jason Grilli, Andrew McCutchen, and Jose Tabata. They traded Grilli midseason, and we ?ve already touched on Tabata ?s situation, so the final amount owed went down during the season.
Signing Bonuses Starting Total: $1,958,333
Signing Bonuses Final Total: $1,774,725
Signing Bonuses (or Pro-Rated Buyouts): This list also includes the Marte, McCutchen, and Tabata deals, as well as Charlie Morton ?s buyout. The final season amount is less because of the Tabata situation as well.
Signing Bonuses (or Pro-Rated Buyouts) Starting Total: $875,000
Signing Bonuses (or Pro-Rated Buyouts) Final Total: $861,035
Performance Bonuses: Many bonuses are hard to pin down, so only reported incentives are included in these totals. Francisco Liriano ?s incentive-laden deal from 2013 came with an option for 2014 that included even more incentives to try and compensate to levels of the originally agreed upon deal. The details can be found here, but the Pirates ended up paying Liriano an extra $2,000,000 based on games started in 2014.
The Pirates also had to pay Andrew McCutchen for his All-Star appearance and his 3rd Place MVP finish.
Performance Bonuses Starting Total: $0
Performance Bonuses Final Total: $2,075,000
Cash Considerations: Nothing to report here, as the only acquisition for cash was Vance Worley from the Twins before the season started, which went unreported.
Cash Considerations Starting Total: $0
Cash Considerations Final Total: $0
Credits: Wandy Rodriguez was responsible for most of the payroll credits in 2014, with the Astros paying $5,500,000 of his $13,000,000 option that he exercised. Also, because his option was exercised, he was not paid a buyout, so the Pirates got to credit a portion of that back to the 2014 payroll.
Russell Martin and Travis Snider also lost small portions of their salary due to being suspended after a brawl with the Brewers. Martin lost one game ?s worth of salary, while Snider lost two. This was deserved, as brawls are part of petulant baseball behavior that I can ?t stand and need stopped. There, I said it, and I don ?t apologize.
Credits Starting Total: $7,294,871
Credits Final Total: $7,354,761
2014 Opening Day Payroll: $72,324,462
Final 2014 Payroll: $77,223,365
Here ?s a breakdown of how Opening Day payrolls changed from season to season based on different transaction types. Keep in mind that it shows transactions made between Opening Days, but doesn ?t compare Ending Payroll of one season to Starting Payroll for the next. I will include those for reference, even though it ?s probably not relevant to compare ending totals to starting totals, as they are apples and oranges.
|2012 Start||Between||2013 Start||Between||2014 Start|
|Major League Salary||61,557,000||78,180,000||75,971,000|
|Minimum Salary Increase||1,118,500||1,096,000|
|Minimum Salary Decrease|
|Minor League Salary||821,625||758,900||815,000|