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So, How Much Do The Pirates Have Left To Spend?

Scott Kazmir is the latest apple of Pirates fans' eyes. Photo via

Scott Kazmir is the latest apple of Pirates fans’ eyes.
Photo via

After the surprising, and some would say welcome, salary dump of Charlie Morton and his $8M salary to the Philadelphia Phillies, Rob Biertempel of the Tribune-Review had this tweet:

There’s a couple of things to analyze here. The first is that the total payroll is projected by the Pirates to be $105M. This is the exact number that we forecast back in mid-October in our 2016 Pirate Roster and Payroll article. The second is that the Pirates already have allocated $88M. This did not seem correct to me, so let’s check that out.

First, here’s the definite salary commitments that exist today:

Player Amount
Liriano $13.67M
McCutchen $13.2M
Niese $9.0M
Harrison $5.25M
Morse $4.67M*
Marte $3.33M
Kang $2.5M

This totals out to $55.2M for these seven players. Note that for Morse, it is assumed by Cot’s Contracts that the Dodgers are providing $3.83M to the Pirates to cover Morse’s $8.5M salary this year, hence the figure of $4.67M. This is also, not coincidentally, the exact amount of money that Jose Tabata was going to make in 2016 to rot in the Pirates’ doghouse in Indianapolis. The next piece of the puzzle are the arbitration-eligible players:

Player Amount
Melancon $8.8M
Cervelli $3.6M
Watson $3.2M
Locke $2.7M
Hughes $1.9M
Mercer $1.9M
Stewart $1.5M

These seven players add up to $23.6M, using my model and estimates. If you disagree on some of the individual player estimates, that’s fine, but MLB Trade Rumors forecasted the same seven to total $26.2M, so it’s not a huge difference.

That’s $78.8M for fourteen players. Let’s estimate $500,000 each for eleven min-scale players, just to round out the roster, for an additional $5.5M. The minimum 25-man roster is now $84.3M. Maybe the Pirates have different arbitration values that they anticipate. There’s a little bit of upcharge on the min-scale guys because some may be making $525,000 or whatever, but it’s mostly budget dust. The Pirates, as I’ve heard from Frank Coonelly a few times, also factor in the additional players on the 40-man roster into their payroll calculations. Here’s the additional 14 guys and their estimated salaries (the Pirates have two 40-man slots open currently, but a player like Hanson or Diaz may be on the 25-man as a min-salary guy, hence the overlap of numbers):

Player Amount
Hansen $122,500
Broxton $81,500
Diaz $81,500
Holdzkom $81,500
Taillon $81,500
Kingham $81,500
Garcia $81,500
Knudson $81,500
Goebbert $81,500
Ngeope $40,250
Glasnow $40,250
Bell $40,250
Moroff $40,250
Ramirez $40,250

These 40-man salary guys total up to $978,000, so toss another $1M on to the hopper and you get $85.3M. That’s close enough to the original Biertempel tweeted number to run with it. So using the original $88M, the Pirates have $17M left to play with. 1B is obviously a gaping black hole and I have to think that the Pirates want another starter of some repute, as the minor leaguers aren’t either healthy or experienced enough to start the season in Pittsburgh (Glasnow needs AAA tuning, Taillon needs to scrape off rust, Kingham out until mid-season at the earliest).

Many people are clamoring for Scott Kazmir, but I believe he’s looking at an annual salary of $16M, at a minimum, so that would essentially take all of their wiggle room away. The easy answer is to trade Mark Melancon and his $9M to $10M allocation. I think they can get a solid setup-caliber guy back for $3M and offload the rest of the salary, saving $7M in the process. That would give the Pirates $24M to work with and Kazmir could then be in play, leaving $7M for a 1B. The Pirates are rumoring to be looking at Dae-ho Lee, a free agent from the Korean league, so there would be no associated posting fee. I have to think that as a 32-year old, his annual salary would not be that substantial, perhaps in the $5M/year range. So, theoretically, if the Pirates move Melancon, they could get Kazmir and a 1B. If not, they could either get a solid pitcher or a solid 1B and then dumpster-dive…errr….find a reclamation project for the other position.

For all of those thinking that Kazmir is the missing piece to the World Series for the Pirates, let me ask you this: Would you have signed Kazmir for $7M in 2014, coming off of two years out of baseball, like the A’s did? Rather than paying full-rate for Kazmir at $16-18M, I’d much rather find the next Kazmir-Ray Searage success story for half the cost.

This is why freaking out about each individual move, rather than waiting for the bigger picture to come into focus, is silly. Especially in early December. There are so many moves left to make and so many quality free agents still available. There’s going to be some great talent still hanging around, getting anxious, in January. The Pirates will be methodical and make their choices deliberately, much to the dismay of the majority of the fanbase.

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.

1 Comment on So, How Much Do The Pirates Have Left To Spend?

  1. I’d argue that giving Cutch an extension and using some of that $17M towards it might be better use of the money. I’m really starting to like Cutch’s 32-35 year old seasons after studying similar players throughout last 30 years. 6/$150M starting in ’16?

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