With No Moves, the Pirates are Projected to Spend $63 M in 2013

Yesterday I finished putting together the 2013 40-man payroll page, which will be updated throughout the off-season, and in to the regular season. Bookmark that link, as I’ll be updating the chart after every move throughout the off-season. The chart provides an estimate  of the year-end 2013 payroll, which will definitely change throughout the off-season.

Right now the estimate is made up of three things. First we have the guaranteed salaries. Next are the projected arbitration increases, which are based on this article. Finally there are the projected roster decisions. I didn’t go crazy making projections on who would stay and who would go. I mostly stuck with the guys who are out of options. I estimated that Rod Barajas wouldn’t be brought back, and that Rick VandenHurk, Jeff Clement, and Gustavo Nunez would all be removed from the 40-man roster.

There are other guys who I think could be removed from the 40-man, but for now I’m keeping them on the list. It really doesn’t change the final figure. For example, I’ve got Eric Fryer as a place holder for the backup catcher job. I could see Fryer getting removed this off-season and another catcher added. But the payroll wouldn’t change. The new catcher would make at least the $490,000 that Fryer is projected for, and possibly more than that. Because the focus here is on the estimated payroll, I didn’t break down those decisions that had little to no impact on the payroll.

The Pirates are currently projected for a $63,101,800 payroll in 2013. A lot can change with that figure. To get an idea of what can impact that figure, let’s look at some of the biggest contract issues.

Joel Hanrahan

The biggest expense is Hanrahan’s projected $7.5 M salary in his final year of arbitration. That’s a value compared to what top closers get on the free agent market. At the same time, the Pirates shouldn’t be spending that much on a closer. They’d be better off investing that money in a player who would provide a bigger impact. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hanrahan dealt this off-season, which would lower this payroll figure.

Jeff Karstens

I think Jeff Karstens should return. I can also see an argument that could be made to deal him away. He’s dealt with injuries and hasn’t been an innings eater. His $4.8 M projected salary isn’t a lot, although the Pirates might not want to spend that when considering his injury history. Personally I’d spend the money. When healthy, you’re not going to find a pitcher better than Karstens for under $5 M.

Free Agency/Trades

Last year the Pirates opened the off-season with a minimum payroll of $30.16 M. That was before any arbitration raises, but it was also before any free agents were added. This year the minimum payroll is $50.01 M, and arbitration is expected to take that up another $13 M. Last year the Pirates spent just under $15 M on four free agents (Clint Barmes, Rod Barajas, Erik Bedard, Nate McLouth). They also traded for Casey McGehee and signed Juan Cruz to a $1.25 M deal. In each of the last two years the team has been turned down by free agent pitchers, after offering $10 M a year. The team had more success this year, and might be a more attractive option to a free agent if they try again. They’re definitely going to add some external players this off-season. The question is, how much will they spend?

In-Season Additions

The difference between the Opening Day payroll and the final payroll is always big. There’s no way to project all of the in-season moves, whether that comes in the form of trades, waiver claims, or the constant promotions and demotions from Triple-A. Last year the Pirates added about $7 M in-season. The year before they added almost $11 M during the season. The estimated number represents the Opening Day projections. You could probably add $5-10 M to that figure on Opening Day to guess what the final figure would be.


The estimated payroll is exactly that, an estimate. It doesn’t include every bonus, incentive, or exact salary figures for the league minimum guys. In the past, the estimate has been pretty accurate. In 2010 the end of the year figure was $1.36 M short of the actual results. In 2011 the estimate was off by $1.66 M. In 2012 the estimate was $1.91 M off the actual year-end payroll. So based on the last three years, the estimate has a margin of error of $1.64 M on average.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • leadoff

    Tim, do you think the Pirates know by now who they are going to keep and who they are going to non tender?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I think they have a general idea, but at the same time there are variables to consider. They would probably want to negotiate with players before sending them away, just to see what the price would be. They’d also want to see what interest there was from other teams. You can have an idea of what you want to do, but it would be impossible at this point to have a concrete plan, since the deadline for those moves is so far away.

  • TonyPenaforHOF

    I agree with your assessment of Hanrahan and Karstens. What do you feel is the trade value of Hanrahan?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I think they could get a productive everyday player back. If you look at some of the recent deals for top relievers, they usually came with one key potential everyday guy, and a few more pieces. Oakland got Josh Reddick and others for Andrew Bailey. Baltimore got Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter for Koji Uehara. I don’t think Hanrahan brings back a massive return, since he’s only under control for one year, but I think he can still bring that main piece.

      • TonyPenaforHOF

        Do you see any natural matches for trade partners?

        • Kevin_Creagh

          Pure speculation on my part, but the Mets have publicly stated that they will bolster their bullpen through trades and free agency this offseason. With the Mets coming out of the Wilpon/Madoff haze, I could see them going for Hanrahan.

          • http://www.facebook.com/michael.mawhinney.31 Michael Mawhinney

            What about Ike Davis? Are the Mets still looking to possibly deal him?

          • wkkortas

            I think the Mets are fairly committed to Davis, but I think Lucas Duda could be had–even though he had a off-year, Duda would be a nice fit, especially at PNC.

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