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Pirates Payroll Rewind: 2015

Pittsburgh Pirates v Miami Marlins

J.A Happ was among the best acquisitions for any team at the 2015 Trade Deadline.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

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 4 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.

Series: 2012, 2013, 2014

Next up is 2015, the final year of three consecutive playoff appearances for the Pirates, and an extremely unlucky season for one of the best Pirates ? teams in recent memory.

Major League Salary: Relative to the most recent seasons, the Pirates spent big in free agency, committing $25,500,000 in free agent salary to 5 players, including resigning Francisco Liriano at $11,000,000 to start and bringing back A.J. Burnett for the final season of his career at $8,500,000. Arguably the biggest addition, however, may have been that of Jung Ho Kang, an import from the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), a move that had little precedent as far as position players were concerned. The deal ?four years at $11,000,000 guaranteed, with $2,500,000 million in first-year base salary ?presented several interesting payroll notes that deserve to be mentioned. First, the Pirates had to pay Kang ?s former team ?the Nexen Heroes ?a $5,002,015 posting fee just for the right to negotiate and eventually sign Kang. Despite this out-of-pocket expense, none of this amount would have gone towards payroll; however, there are some other expenses related to the contract that many don ?t recognize.

According to Article XXIII(E)(1) of the CBA,

?Salary ? shall mean the value of the total compensation (cash or otherwise) paid to a Player pursuant to the terms of a Uniform Player ?s Contract, including ?the value of non-cash compensation such as the provision of personal translators, personal massage therapists, and airfare and tickets exceeding normal Club allotments.

Basically, this is saying that a player ?s 40-man salary allotment can include items that we would never hear about, such as translators and airfare, and these very stipulations are written in to Kang ?s contract. Since we don ?t know exactly how much Kang ?s interpreter or plane tickets for he or his family would have cost I ?m not going to include it here; however, the final payroll amount could be as much as $115,000 higher due to these contract provisions. Finally, the Pirates agreed to release Kang at the end of his contract, so he ?s not eligible for arbitration at the end of his deal despite having less than six full years of Major League Service.

As for in season moves ?despite what some fans have to say ?the Pirates saw a big opportunity and made a major effort to fortify an already strong team. They made five trades at or around the deadline, and the returns provided a boost down the stretch ?specifically to the bullpen and rotation. The Pirates added J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton, Joakim Soria, Michael Morse, and Aramis Ramirez, who collectively had $13,414,835 in partial season salary remaining. These amounts were offset by several factors however. The Pirates only had to cover $3,000,000 of Ramirez ? $5,615,385 remaining salary. Also, they saved $970,385 by outrighting Vance Worley and Brent Morel to clear roster spots for the new players. Finally, the Dodgers covered a portion of Morse ?s salary in the trade, but the amount was never reported. The Pirates saw no payroll savings in this exercise, since Jose Tabata ?who was sent to the Dodgers in exchange ?wasn ?t on the 40-man roster at the time. While I won ?t add it on, an amount from the Dodgers can at least be estimated. Morse had $2,500,000 remaining for the season, while Tabata would have been owed $1,428,571 for the rest of the season ?just not recognized in 40-man payroll ?therefore, it can be assumed that the Dodgers wouldn ?t have sent more than $1,071,429 to cover the difference between the two remaining salaries. This doesn ?t even take into account the portion of salary the Dodgers received from the Marlins in a trade earlier in the season, muddying the waters even more.

In all, the Pirates added a net total of $9,829,065 in salary with their deadline deals, not counting any cash from the Dodgers for Morse. The team also claimed Travis Ishikawa off waivers and the $556,044 of his remaining salary, pushing the in-season acquisition total to $10,563,680, which also includes a $178,571 portion of Morse ?s signing bonus.

Finally, the Pirates saw arbitration increases of $12,055,000 between 7 players, while contracted salaries for 4 other players increased $10,050,000. Despite the Pirates bringing in a large amount of salary via free agency, they also lost $21,500,000 to free agency, so this is obviously where the year-to-year increase in payroll can be attributed.

Major League Salary Starting Total: $84,677,500

Major League Salary Final Total: $98,614,909

Minor League Salary: The season started with $496,400 committed to just 8 players. There is really nothing else to talk about in this section, as the only two players with three or more stints in the minors were Bobby LaFromboise and Wilfredo Boscan.

Minor League Salary Starting Total: $496,400

Minor League Salary Final Total: $668,175

Signing Bonuses: The Pirates had Pro-Rated Signing Bonuses on the books for Francisco Liriano and Josh Harrison ?s new deals, as well as Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen. The amount increased slightly for the portion of the season Jose Tabata was in the majors, along with the aforementioned portion of Michael Morse ?s bonus.

Signing Bonuses Starting Total: $1,458,333

Signing Bonuses Final Total: $1,676,282

Signing Bonuses (or Pro-Rated Buyouts): This list also includes the Harrison, Marte, and McCutchen deals, as well as buyouts for Charlie Morton and Jung Ho Kang. The final season amount is slightly more because of the Tabata call-up as well.

Signing Bonuses (or Pro-Rated Buyouts) Starting Total: $1,145,833

Signing Bonuses (or Pro-Rated Buyouts) Final Total: $1,155,677

Performance Bonuses: Many bonuses are hard to pin down, so only reported incentives are included in these totals. The only bonus paid was to Andrew McCutchen for his All-Star appearance

Performance Bonuses Starting Total: $0

Performance Bonuses Final Total: $25,000

Cash Considerations: Nothing to report here, as all the cash acquisitions the team made were unreported. The list includes Preston Guilmet, Justin Sellers, Sean Rodriguez (which included Buddy Borden as compensation), Steve Lombardozzi, Arquimedes Caminero, and Joe Blanton.

Cash Considerations Starting Total: $0

Cash Considerations Final Total: $0

Credits: The only credit that can be validated is the portion of Aramis Ramirez ? salary that the Brewers covered as part of the trade. However, the Pirates also received cash considerations in trades for Clayton Richard, Jayson Aquino, and Michael Morse.

Credits Starting Total: $0

Credits Final Total: $2,615,385

2015 Opening Day Payroll: $87,778,066

Final 2015 Payroll: $99,524,658

Year-to-Year Breakdown

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.

2013 Start Between 2014 Start Between 2015 Start
Major League Salary 78,180,000 75,971,000 84,677,500
FA Additions 7,500,000 25,500,000
Trade Acquisitions 1,000,000 7,539,000
Arbitration Raises 6,795,000 12,055,000
Salary Increases 19,050,000 10,050,000
Minimum Salary Increase 1,096,000 92,000
Minimum Salary Decrease
FA Losses (24,500,000) (21,500,000)
Traded Away (1,500,000) (5,715,000)
Non-Tendered (4,500,000) (2,300,000)
Option Declined
Released (7,150,000) (17,014,500)
Minor League Salary 758,900 815,000 496,400
Increase 56,100
Decrease (318,600)
Signing Bonuses 2,125,000 1,958,333 1,458,333
Added 333,333 916,667
Subtracted (500,000) (1,416,667)
Prorated Buyouts 1,041,667 875,000 1,145,833
Added 666,666 312,500
Subtracted (833,333) (41,667)
Retention Bonus 100,000
Subtracted (100,000)
Termination Pay
Cash Considerations
Credits (13,500,000) (7,294,871)
Added 8,500,000 7,294,871
Subtracted (2,294,871)
Total 68,705,567 3,618,895 72,324,462 15,453,604 87,778,066
Start Finish
2012 52,961,959 59,637,409
2013 68,705,567 75,212,130
2014 72,324,462 77,223,365
2015 87,778,066 99,524,658

Ethan is a Pirates contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. An Accountant by trade, Ethan is passionate about the business of sports and won't apologize for enjoying it more than the actual games. He's a believer in analytics, hasn't played a game since little league, and can be contacted via Twitter @EthanHullihen

4 Comments on Pirates Payroll Rewind: 2015

  1. So they ADDED payroll during the season 4 years in a row?

    Very interesting, and not at all what we read on other blogs.

    I guess math doesn’t lie…

  2. Daquido Bazzini // June 11, 2018 at 4:40 PM // Reply

    No one (that I’m aware of) ever said that the Nutting Regime NEVER added payroll.
    It’s only natural that payroll went up a bit in the three playoff seasons.
    Keep in mind, even the price of a loaf of bread goes up as time moves on.
    The complaints are based off the fact that the Pirates ride near the caboose of the team salary chart almost every season.
    No one (and I mean no one) expects the Pirates to be up with teams like the Dodgers, Cubs or Yankees.
    But….If you can’t “somewhat” keep up with cities like Cleveland, KC, Detroit, Minneapolis, etc….Something is wrong.

  3. So the payroll went from 53 million to 99 million in 3years.

    In terms of percentage increase that’s some pretty expensive bread.

  4. Daquido Bazzini // June 18, 2018 at 2:47 PM // Reply

    The sources I have looked at have the 2012 payroll at $62 mil and the 2013 payroll at $66.
    Hey….Things go up (especially attendance) when you have a winning team.
    What’s the payroll now?…..And what will it be at the end of July?
    Not much.

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