Every year, following the trade deadline, I take a look at the future payroll for the upcoming year. In previous years, the Pirates’ season was all but over following the deadline. Today they sit with 60 wins, three games out of first place, all in early August. So the approach is a bit different. The primary focus is contending this year, not the payroll next year. But the Pirates did make some moves that will impact their payroll next year, so let’s see how those moves play out.
The chart below has my payroll projections for the 2013 season, focusing only on the players who are in the system. A breakdown of the chart can be found in the breakdown below.
Below is the projected lineup I used for the payroll forecast. I’ll get in to more detail about the lineup and pitching staff in the sections below.
C – Rod Barajas
1B – Garrett Jones
2B – Neil Walker
SS – Clint Barmes
3B – Pedro Alvarez
LF – Starling Marte
CF – Andrew McCutchen
RF – Travis Snider
Bench – Gaby Sanchez, Alex Presley, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Michael McKenry
SP – A.J. Burnett
SP – Wandy Rodriguez
SP – James McDonald
SP – Jeff Karstens
SP – Jeff Locke
RP – Tony Watson
RP – Jared Hughes
RP – Bryan Morris
RP – Chris Resop
RP – Daniel McCutchen
RP – Duke Welker
CL – Joel Hanrahan
Departing Via Free Agency Following 2012
The following players will be eligible for free agency following the 2012 season. They weren’t included in the chart above. Their 2012 salaries are in parenthesis.
Erik Bedard ($4,500,000)
Kevin Correia ($4,000,000)
Juan Cruz ($1,250,000)
Chad Qualls ($1,150,000)
Jason Grilli ($1,100,000)
Total Money Cut: $12,000,000.
2012-2013 DFA Candidates
Charlie Morton ($2,445,000)
Evan Meek ($875,000)
Gustavo Nunez ($480,000)
Eric Fryer ($78,250)
Oscar Tejeda ($78,250)
Potential Money Cut: $3,956,500
Analysis: Charlie Morton is eligible for arbitration, but won’t return from Tommy John surgery until mid-season. I can’t see the Pirates paying him an arbitration price to keep him around. My guess is they non-tender him and try to sign him back to a minor league deal. Evan Meek would be due for his second year of arbitration. I can’t see him getting that, considering how he’s been used this year. Gustavo Nunez is a Rule 5 pick, but has been injured all year. He would keep his Rule 5 status next year until he spent 90 days in the majors. I think it’s more likely the Pirates try to deal for him in the off-season. Eric Fryer and Oscar Tejeda profile as guys who would be candidates to be removed for new free agents or 2012 Rule 5 prospects.
Joel Hanrahan – $7,500,000 = $3,400,000 raise
Jeff Karstens – $6,000,000 = $2,900,000 raise
Garrett Jones – $4,500,000 = $2,250,000 raise
James McDonald – $3,500,000 = $2,997,500 raise
Neil Walker – $2,250,000 = $1,750,000 raise
Chris Resop – $1,300,000 = $450,000 raise
Gaby Sanchez – $1,000,000 = $517,000 raise
Total Raises: $14,264,500
Analysis: The Pirates will see two big first-year eligible players in James McDonald and Neil Walker. Jeff Karstens will be in his final year, and could jump to $6 M next year if he keeps this current production up. Gaby Sanchez will probably be low due to his poor numbers and the time he missed this year while in Triple-A. The big spending will come with Joel Hanrahan. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pirates deal him over the off-season, as I can’t see them spending that much on a closer. Garrett Jones and Chris Resop are also question marks. Jones is a good power bat and a great platoon option, but $4.5 M might be too much for that role. The Pirates tend to deal guys like Resop when they top the $1 M mark (SEE: Veras, Jose), and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens again this off-season.
Flexible Payroll Situations
The following players could be candidates to be moved via trade, or non-tendered to create payroll space.
Joel Hanrahan ($7,500,000)
Garrett Jones ($4,500,000)
Rod Barajas ($3,500,000 option)
Chris Resop ($1,300,000)
Jose Tabata ($1,000,000)
Total Room to Work With: $17,800,000
Analysis: Like I said above, I could see Hanrahan being dealt. I could see the same for Jones and Resop. I think there’s a chance Rod Barajas doesn’t come back. A lot of that will depend on what Michael McKenry and Tony Sanchez do to finish the year. If McKenry looks like a starting candidate, then Barajas could become expendable. Sanchez could enter the picture if he continues his recent hot streak in Triple-A. The interesting situation here is Jose Tabata. He profiles as a bench guy if he makes the majors. In my projection I had Gaby Sanchez and Alex Presley taking up the spots Tabata could take. He’s got to start in the majors, or the Pirates will have to trade or DFA him.
First Base - The Pirates are still going with a platoon in this situation. Platoons aren’t the worst thing in the world, but the reason a team goes with a platoon is because they don’t have one good option to fill the position. Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez could both be everyday starters, but they’re not going to put up the numbers you’d want from a starting first baseman. Even if Sanchez returns to his pre-2012 form, he’s a below average first baseman. In 2011 his .779 OPS ranked 18th of 24 qualifying first basemen. A platoon wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, and based on the above projections it would cost about $5.5 M. But if the Pirates can find one good first baseman, they should go that route, deal Jones, and keep Sanchez as a bench option.
Notable Projected Free Agents: Adam LaRoche (option year), Mike Napoli, Carlos Pena.
Shortstop - The defense from Clint Barmes has been as expected. He’s got an 11.5 UZR/150 so far this year, which ranks third behind Brendan Ryan and Starlin Castro. The offense hasn’t been as expected, making Barmes a very expensive version of Cesar Izturis. Shortstop isn’t the easiest position to find. As long as Yuniesky Betancourt still gets time at shortstop, I’m convinced one team would want Barmes. The Pirates might be able to unload him, unload some salary, and try for an upgrade. Worst case, they keep him, and split time with Jordy Mercer (which seems unlikely considering Mercer’s lack of playing time).
Notable Projected Free Agents: Jason Bartlett (option year), Stephen Drew (option year), Jhonny Peralta (option year), Marco Scutaro.
Corner Outfield - The Pirates are currently going with Starling Marte and Travis Snider, which is the projection I went with above. If Snider hits well, there would be no need for an upgrade. But this could also be an area where the Pirates could look for an extra bat. If they needed an extra bat, it might be wise to move Snider to first base, since there’s more available talent in the outfield of next year’s free agent class.
Notable Projected Free Agents: Josh Hamilton, Delmon Young, Michael Bourn, Melky Cabrera, Grady Sizemore, Cody Ross, B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino.
Starting Pitching - I’ve got Jeff Locke penciled in as the fifth starter. I’d imagine the Pirates would turn to Locke or Justin Wilson for that spot. Gerrit Cole should start next year in Triple-A, and could be in the majors by July. So there wouldn’t be a big need to add outside help. There are a lot of interesting names on the market, so it wouldn’t hurt to look. But the Pirates would be thin on payroll this year, and they’ll definitely be thin in years to come, so they’d have to be careful about issuing big contracts.
Notable Projected Free Agents: Too many to list, and I’d be surprised if they go for a big pitching option.
Bullpen - This is the interesting situation. If the Pirates deal Hanrahan, they’d probably have to look for a closer. Brad Lincoln is gone, and Jason Grilli would be leaving via free agency. Internally, the best bet might be Bryan Morris, although he has yet to throw a major league pitch. Externally, they haven’t had any issues finding bullpen help. A Hanrahan trade would free up some money, and might even fill one of the holes above. Even if they don’t add an outside closer in that scenario, I could see them adding a veteran relief pitcher in the $1 M range, similar to Jose Veras or Juan Cruz.
Notable Projected Free Agents: Pointless to list them since we don’t know who will be the value reliever. They could also fill their needs internally with guys like Duke Welker, Victor Black, or Chris Leroux.
The Pirates are starting off with a projected $63.5 M, before any free agent additions. That number could go down with a few tough choices. A Hanrahan trade, a Jones trade, not picking up the option for Barajas, and non-tendering Chris Resop could save them about $16.8 M, which takes the projected total down to $46.7 M, giving much more room to spend in free agency. Either way, I think the Pirates top $60 M to start the year next year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they approached $70 M by the time the season starts.
Can you imagine the situation they’d be in if they would have taken on Hunter Pence’s projected $14.4 M salary next year?