Opening the books

Washington Nationals outfielder Nyjer Morgan slides into third after hitting a triple during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park in Washington on April 8, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

The Nyjer Morgan trade was a salary dump? - Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Newscom

Many fans got their wish today, as the Pirates opened their books to the public. Sort of. After financial records were leaked to the Associated Press, Bob Nutting and Frank Coonelly preemptively revealed the leaked details to local media members. I am far from an expert on finances, so I will just stick to a few of my general reactions. For a more in-depth look at the situation, check out the following links.

Associated Press: Alan Robinson’s report on the leaked information
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Dejan Kovacevic’s details from the media session with Nutting/Coonelly
Pittsburgh Tribune Review: Rob Biertempfel’s details from the media session with Nutting/Coonelly
Pirates.com: Jen Langosch’s details from the media session with Nutting/Coonelly
Pirates Prospects: Wilbur Miller’s reaction to the news

  • The profit numbers released ($5.4 million in 2009, $14.4 million in 2008, $15 million in 2007) are not exorbitant. Reports within the last year have accused ownership of pocketing much, much more than this each season. These are moderate profits that are keeping the organization in strong financial standing. As a fan, I would prefer the team to have that sort of financial flexibility.
  • The AP article glosses over this important passage. By the way, this has been said before.

    “The Pirates have fully complied with the Basic Agreement requirements for the use of revenue-sharing proceeds,” Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive vice president for labor relations, told the AP in an e-mail.

  • There is quite a bit of nonsense in the AP article.

    To cut payroll, the Pirates have shed former All-Stars Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez, Nate McLouth and Jack Wilson in trades, along with nearly every other player who was arbitration eligible — or close to it — or free agency: Tom Gorzelanny, Ian Snell, John Grabow, Xavier Nady, Adam LaRoche, Damaso Marte, Nyjer Morgan, Ronny Paulino and Sean Burnett.

    They also dealt slugger Jose Bautista to Toronto for a backup catcher who has since left their system, and cut NL All-Star closer Matt Capps without getting anything in return because he sought a $500,000 raise.

    I repeat, this is utter nonsense. Tom Gorzelanny will not be arbitration eligible until after this season. Nyjer Morgan will be eligible after the 2011 season, if he is still in the majors. Ronny Paulino was traded after the 2008 season, still a year away from arbitration. Sean Burnett was earning close to league minimum when he was traded. With the Nationals, he received a giant raise to $775,000 this season. Using any of these players as evidence of payroll shedding is either ill-advised or disingenuous. Also, saying that the Pirates “dealt slugger Jose Bautista…for a backup catcher” is completely twisting the facts. There are 13 players listed in this section as evidence of management’s salary dumps. Two are now in Triple-A. Only about five are performing at anything approaching competency this year.

All in all, I don’t think there is anything all that newsworthy in this article, other than adding some more concrete numbers to the conversation.

EDIT: Actually, this is probably the most important aspect of the situation. From Dejan’s piece:

The Pirates’ $5.4 million profit for 2009, considered modest in the world of professional sports, raises another, completely contrasting issue: Can the team compete financially?

I would feel much better if the 2009 profit was much higher than $5.4 million.

Author: Matt Bandi

Matt has covered the Pirates at Wait ‘Til Next Year, Pittsburgh Lumber Co. and now Pirates Prospects. He served as Pirates team expert for Heater Magazine in 2009 and 2010 and has contributed to Graphical Player 2009, 2010 and 2011. Matt was also the editor of the 2011 and 2012 Pirates Prospects Annuals.

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