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Pirates Payroll Rewind: 2017

Jung Ho Kang missing the whole year really epitomizes the Pirates’ 2017 season.
Photo by Dylan Buell/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 6 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, 2015, 2016

The final season in my series is 2017, where many of the same maladies that plagued the 2016 team persisted, which ultimately led to the second consecutive losing season for the team.

Major League Salary: During the 2016-17 offseason, the Pirates spent $16,150,000 on three free agents, with the resigning of Ivan Nova and addition of Daniel Hudson being the biggest moves. This was offset by losing $12,400,000 in free agency, and the team traded for only $8,374,000 in salary, while trading away $32,702,500, which was mostly the shedding of poor performers Jon Niese and Francisco Liriano in 2016, as well as the Mark Melancon trade.

As for in-season moves, the Pirates saw a surge in performance around the trade deadline, which meant that instead of going all-in on a rebuild, they yet again did a bit of buying and selling. They received two lottery ticket prospects from the Dodgers for a struggling Tony Watson, saving $1,897,268; however, they then turned around and made the baffling trade for Joaquin Benoit, adding $2,540,984 in the process. In this exercise, those moves added payroll for the Pirates, but the Phillies also sent cash considerations in the deal. While the amount is unknown, it ?s likely that the Pirates ultimately made out in the end. Including trades for Johnny Barbato from earlier in the season, as well as Sean Rodriguez ?another puzzler ?and waiver claims on George Kontos, Jhan Marinez, and Jack Leathersich, the Pirates added another $2,631,839 in payroll.

For as much as fans opine for the Pirates to spend over $100 million, the team was set to open above that figure for a second year in a row; however, two largely unforeseen happenings left them officially below that amount to start the season. First, the team agreed with Jared Hughes on a $2,825,000 deal in arbitration, but Hughes was released during Spring Training after struggling mightily. The bigger hit to the payroll ?and the team ?s chances ?was the season long suspension of Jung Ho Kang, which led to his entire salary being wiped off the books. Both moves will be explained in greater detail, but in all, the Pirates seemed prepared to enter the season with a $103,438,733 payroll as opposed to the official $98,495,905 payroll they opened with.

While discussing these payroll savings, the topic of Starling Marte should be mentioned. Marte was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for PEDs, which saved the Pirates $2,817,850 in salary on the season. In total, the Pirates saved $7,760,678 between the salaries of Marte, Kang, and Hughes, which led to many fans questioning just why those funds weren ?t reallocated during the season for the Pirates. Well, adding up all the in-season moves ?not factoring in changes in salary regarding call-ups and optioning players ?the Pirates added $2,503,464 in salary during the season, more than $5 million less than those particular savings. Sure, those funds could have been used to at least acquire a true fourth-outfielder, but for a team not really heading anywhere, I personally can ?t begrudge this outcome too much.

Finally, the Pirates saw arbitration increases of $8,150,000 between three players, while contracted salaries for eight other players increased $15,550,000.

Major League Salary Starting Total: $93,464,500

Major League Salary Final Total: $97,709,011

Minor League Salary: As they were last season, minor league salaries were severely thrown off by the presence of Drew Hutchison in the system. Hutchison was again eligible for arbitration, agreeing on a $2,300,000 deal; however, he opened the season in the minors and never saw time in the majors. Hutchison was eventually outrighted off the 40-man roster, but that didn ?t save the Pirates any payroll as it did in the past. Under the new CBA agreed upon before the 2017 season, outrighted player salaries now count against payroll where they didn ?t before, as Article XXIII (C)(2)(f) states, ?Any Uniform Player ?s Contract that is assigned outright to a Minor League club during the term of this Agreement shall be included in the Club ?s Actual Club Payroll. ?

Here are some familiar names who had three or more stints in the minors in 2017: Elias Diaz, Steven Brault, Max Moroff, Dovydas Neverauskas, and Jacob Stallings.

Minor League Salary Starting Total: $3,128,400

Minor League Salary Final Total: $3,089,089

Signing Bonuses: The Pirates had prorated Signing Bonuses on the books for Ivan Nova, Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte, Josh Harrison, Andrew McCutchen, and Antonio Bastardo. The final amount was higher due to the acquisition of Sean Rodriguez and his signing bonus with the Braves.

Signing Bonuses Starting Total: $2,183,333

Signing Bonuses Final Total: $2,416,940

Signing Bonuses (or prorated Buyouts): This list also includes the Polanco, Marte, Harrison, and McCutchen deals, as well as buyouts for David Freese, Chris Stewart, Jung Ho Kang, and Wade LeBlanc. No in-season moves were made affecting this total.

Signing Bonuses (or Pro-Rated Buyouts) Starting Total: $1,837,500

Signing Bonuses (or Pro-Rated Buyouts) Final Total: $1,837,500

Performance Bonuses: Many bonuses are hard to pin down, so only reported incentives are included in these totals. The only incentive paid by the Pirates was to Ivan Nova based on starts.

Nova was paid for reaching both 28 and 30 starts, and just missed out on 32 starts and an extra $1,000,000, making 31 starts. It should be noted that Nova was skipped in the rotation in early September, and if this move was made in an effort to suppress Nova ?s earning potential, I have a much bigger problem with that than what happened with Juan Nicasio, which was the move that drew all the ire of the fans, while this received little to no attention.

Performance Bonuses Starting Total: $0

Performance Bonuses Final Total: $1,000,000

Termination Pay: As already stated, the Pirates waived Jared Hughes towards the end of Spring Training, and since Hughes arbitration contract wasn ?t guaranteed the Pirates owed him 45 days of his $2,825,000 salary, as per Article IX (B):

A Player whose Contract is terminated by a Club under paragraph 7(b)(2) of the Uniform Player ?s Contract for failure to exhibit sufficient skill or competitive ability shall be entitled to receive termination pay from the Club in an amount equal to thirty (30) days ? payment at the rate stipulated in paragraph 2 of his Contract, if the termination occurs during Spring Training but on or before the 16th day prior to the start of the championship season. If the termination occurs during Spring Training, but subsequent to the 16th day prior to the start of the championship season, the Player ?s termination pay shall be in an amount equal to forty-five (45) days ? payment at the rate stipulated in paragraph 2 of his Contract.

Termination Pay Starting Total: $694,672

Termination Pay Final Total: $694,672

Cash Considerations: Nothing to report here, as the only cash acquisitions the team made were for Pat Light and the immortal Brady Dragmire, which both went unreported.

Cash Considerations Starting Total: $0

Cash Considerations Final Total: $0

Credits: These have already been touched on, but the entirety of Jung Ho Kang ?s base salary and pro-rated buyout was stricken from the Pirates ? payroll because of his status on the Restricted List, while 91 days ? worth of Starling Marte ?s base salary ?as well as pro-rated signing bonus and buyout ?were not on the Pirates ? books. Yes, Marte was suspended for 80 games, but Section 7(H) of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program policy states that ?[t]he number of days of pay a Player shall lose while suspended shall equal the number of championship season days he is on the Restricted List as a result of the suspension. ?

Basically, this means that even though Marte was suspended 80 games, he lost the prorated portion of days it took to serve that 80 games, which was 91.

Credits Starting Total: $2,812,500

Credits Final Total: $5,630,350

2017 Opening Day Payroll: $98,495,905

Final 2017 Payroll: $101,116,862*

*Eagle-eyed readers will notice this is a different amount than I stated in my original 2018 payroll piece. Well, after doing the same procedure for six other seasons, I realized I originally misinterpreted/missed the outrighted salary rule, thus missing Jason Rogers ? minimum salary for 2017, as well as neglecting to include Marte ?s credited pro-rated bonus and buyout in my original numbers. Sue me ?

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.

2015 Start Between 2016 Start Between 2017 Start
84,677,500 102,320,500 93,464,500
20,950,000 16,150,000
17,520,000 8,374,000
14,662,500 8,150,000
9,325,000 15,550,000
(7,500,000) (12,400,000)
(16,518,500) (32,702,500)
(6,260,000) (3,025,000)
(4,483,000) (11,725,000)
496,400 785,900 3,128,400
289,500 2,342,500
1,458,333 2,008,333 2,183,333
550,000 1,391,667
1,145,833 1,037,500 1,837,500
(333,333) 900,000
225,000 (100,000)
13,557 694,672
13,557 694,672
87,778,066 18,387,724 106,165,790 (7,669,885) 98,495,905
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
2016 106,165,790 102,308,467
2017 98,495,905 101,116,861

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

2 Comments on Pirates Payroll Rewind: 2017

  1. Phillip C-137 // June 20, 2018 at 5:41 PM //

    Ethan, Enjoyed your series. I know it took a bunch of time to put together. Unfortunately without comparison info, I’m finding it hard to put into context.
    And YES, the Benoit deal was baffling, unless Phillies promised to stock the Pirates Coke machines (MoneyBall reference).
    Also, due to your good research, now it’s fairly obvious why they skipped a Nova start.

    • Ethan Hullihen // June 20, 2018 at 10:50 PM //

      First of all, thanks for reading and the kind words. It’s nice to know my thoughts and hard work aren’t just going out into the void unread and uncared for.

      As for the comparison, I get that. I mentioned that in my original piece for 2018. So much work was put in to be as detailed as possible, you can’t really open Spotrac, Cotts, USA Today, or anywhere else and get an apples to apples comparison. Looking them over, there are positives and negatives to all of them. None of them include the whole 40-man roster, which is problematic. Spotrac includes draft picks, which aren’t included in any way for Luxury Tax purposes. USA Today is the only one that includes pro-rated buyouts as signing bonuses, but that seems to only have started this season. In total, it’s the really fine tuned details–Jose Contreras’ Retention Bonus, Year-end Incentives, Andrew McCutchen’s buyout credit, 91 days of Marte credit and not 80–that are being missed, and I can’t say I blame outlets for missing these things. I literally combed through two CBA’s, an official MLB rules book, Joint Drug Agreement, then day-by-day transactions logs from Fall 2011 to now compiling every single move the club made. You can’t really expect these sources to do that for 30 teams, but it also doesn’t mean they are exactly right either.

      So can you open one of these sources and compare what I have? Technically not, but the numbers aren’t going to be materially off. It may seem weird to you and me, but when big companies are dealing with hundreds of millions of dollars, a couple hundred of thousands–or even millions–truly aren’t cared about.

      If you have any questions about any of the detail anywhere, I’d be happy to offer any assistance or answer any question I can.

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