First Pitch: The Pirates Payroll and a Realistic View on Salary Dumps

When the Pirates make a move that cuts salary — such as what happened in the Joel Hanrahan trade — you hear the usual “salary dump” cries. Technically the move was a salary dump. The Pirates saved about $6.5 M in the move. Dumping salary might have even been a key reason to make the move. The Pirates recently signed Francisco Liriano to a two-year, $12.75 M deal. So the salary unloaded in the Hanrahan deal is mostly already spoken for.

Pirates fans tend to obsess about the team payroll. For years the team has been losing, and payroll was down around the $50 M range. Fans wondered when the payroll would jump to the $70 M range, like what we’ve seen from other small market teams. I’ve always pointed out that teams usually follow a specific pattern.

1. The team gets close to .500.

2. Attendance increases.

3. Payroll increases.

Prior to the 2011 season, we asked Pirates president Frank Coonelly when the team would be able to spend $70 M or more on payroll. His response, which drew a ton of criticism at the time, is below.

Kevin: Would the Pirates be able to afford a $70M to $80M payroll, in present-day worth, if this current group of players were competitive enough to merit additional outside free agents?

Frank: Today, no but we will be able to support that payroll very soon if our fans believe that we now have a group of players in Pittsburgh and on its way here in the near future that is competitive.  We need to take a meaningful step forward in terms of attendance to reach that payroll number while continuing to invest heavily in our future but I am convinced that the attendance will move quickly once we convince our fans that we are on the right track.

A lot of the criticism was centered around the idea that Coonelly was saying the fans had to invest first before the team would. That wasn’t exactly what he was saying. It was a variation of what I said above. Coonelly mentioned in the last line that he felt attendance would move quickly once they convinced the fans they were on the right track.

Enter the last two seasons. The Pirates have had two disappointing second half finishes, but have inched their way closer to .500 each year. The result has been an increase in attendance each year. When those comments were made, the Pirates were coming off a year where they had just over 1.6 M in attendance. They saw a slight increase the following year to 1.9 M fans. Last year there was another increase to just under 2.1 M fans.

The team record improved. The fans showed up. From there, the focus is on the Pirates to hold up their end of the bargain and spend money. So far they have. Last year they spent $61 M in payroll. After the Hanrahan trade, and with the eventual signing of Liriano, they’re projected for $66.5 M to start the 2013 season. They’ve added at least $8 M in payroll during each of the last two seasons, so the end of the year payroll right now could end up around $75 M. On a side note, the new national TV deals don’t go into effect until 2014. At that point $70 M will essentially be the new $50 M. For now, $70 M is still the same $70 M it has been for the last few years.

The thing lost in all of this is that spending money isn’t the answer. The answer is spending money wisely. That’s an even bigger issue with small market teams. The advantage that big market teams have is that they can afford to spend to cover up their mistakes. They don’t have to build with prospects, as they can also spend on proven players. Just take a look at the Yankees. They lost Alex Rodriguez for the year. Rodriguez was making $28 M. Their solution was to spend $12 M on Kevin Youkilis. The Pirates would be spending about 15-20% of their payroll if they added a guy for $12 M. The Yankees can add someone like that as a replacement, while eating a $28 M contract for one year. That kind of stuff is unthinkable for a small market team.

In the case with Hanrahan, we got to see both sides of the equation. The Pirates shed salary and added guys who aren’t proven in the majors. Some of them won’t make it. Some of them might go on to be just as effective as Hanrahan, and I’m talking about Mark Melancon here. That’s the type of move the Pirates need to make. They can’t be spending 10% of their payroll on a closer. They’re better off dealing Hanrahan, getting back someone who might be just as good, getting back a few other players with potential, and spending that money on a player who could provide a bigger impact. They did exactly that by adding Liriano.

On the other side, the Red Sox show the luxury that big market teams have. Last year they traded a package of prospects, highlighted by Josh Reddick, for Andrew Bailey. Bailey was brought in to be their closer. They traded Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland to Houston for Mark Melancon, who was brought in to be the set-up man. One year later the stock on both relievers is down. The Red Sox don’t have to hope for a bounce back year from Melancon, and they’re not stuck with Bailey as the closer, even though he’s set to make at least $4 M in 2013. They can trade prospects and bounce back candidates to the Pirates and they can spend $7 M on a new closer, one year after trading Josh Reddick and Jed Lowrie to help their bullpen.

It doesn’t even matter to Boston if Melancon bounces back in Pittsburgh. They can just sign a replacement. It also doesn’t matter if Jerry Sands carries his power over to the majors, just like it didn’t matter that Josh Reddick broke out in Oakland. They can just sign Mike Napoli, and if that falls through, they can sign Adam LaRoche.

Boston does have a budget. It was only this past summer that they made one of the biggest salary dumps in baseball history, sending $260 M in contracts to the Dodgers.

The Yankees have a budget. Last year their budget restrictions forced them to send A.J. Burnett to the Pirates at a huge discount. This year their restrictions prevented them from beating the Pirates financially in the bidding for Russell Martin.

The Pirates also have a budget. Their budget is much lower than the Yankees or Red Sox, but it still exists. They haven’t released an exact figure, but Frank Coonelly did say at PirateFest this year that they could be in the $70 M range. That seems to be where most similar teams end up. If that’s their budget, then they had to make a choice between Hanrahan and Liriano. I would agree with the choice of Liriano. If you’ve read me for any amount of time you know I don’t like paying closers. Relievers are too volatile from year to year. I also think that someone like Liriano has more upside than someone like Hanrahan. If given the choice, I’d take Liriano, Grilli, and Melancon, rather than Hanrahan and Grilli at around the same price. There’s risk involved with Liriano and Melancon, but there’s also a lot of upside with each situation. When you’re on a limited budget, those are the types of players you need to target.

Technically the Hanrahan trade was a salary dump. So much value is placed on the act of spending money that the automatic reactions to salary dumps are negative. Again, it’s not about spending money. It’s about spending money wisely. I feel that with the above considerations, the Pirates are spending wisely. I wrote the other day about how I could see Melancon being just as valuable as Hanrahan. Liriano and Melancon have some risk, but there’s more upside with that combo than there is with Hanrahan for the same price. The return for Hanrahan probably would have been better if the Pirates would have traded him last off-season. However, I don’t think that the return this year is limited to salary relief. I think Melancon and Ivan De Jesus could be just as effective as Hanrahan and Brock Holt. Jerry Sands and Stolmy Pimentel are wild cards and will be the tipping point for this deal.

The main focus of this trade seems to be on the salary. You can’t read an article — whether that’s this site, another Pirates site, or another team’s site — that doesn’t talk about the money aspect. There’s a good reason for that. The Pirates are like every other team in that they have a budget. The salary aspect is an important topic to discuss, but the trade shouldn’t be evaluated based on how much money the Pirates cut from the payroll. The trade should be evaluated on the players that came back in return, and what the Pirates did with the money saved. Based on the timing of the deals, it looks like most of that money went to Francisco Liriano, which should set up a “Liriano/Melancon or Hanrahan” watch during the 2013 season.

Links and Notes

**The 2013 Prospect Guide is now available. Order your copy today!

**The Updated 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Bullpen.

**Winter Leagues Recap: Updates on Newest Pirates.

Tim Williams

Author: 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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  • emjayinTN

    Tim: Signing a Closer for $7 mil and then watch him become a Free Agent after the 2013 season was never in the cards for the Pirates. Spending money wisely is the answer and will be understood by the fans only if the franchise makes another wise, long term investment in the future. McCutchen in 2012, and Neil Walker in 2013. He qualified as a Super Two so he will have 4 arbitration years starting right now. He is estimated to be worth $2.75 mil in arb this year, and he has already gone on record as saying he wants to be with the Pirates for his entire career. How about 5 years for around $32 mil (4 Arb + 1st year of free agency) and two club option years in 2017 & 2018?

    • emjayinTN

      BTW, a quick glance at the CBS BoSox Message Board shows that the Boston folks are pretty much negative about getting a Closer with only one year remaining before FA, and giving up more future pieces to do so. One guy called it Josh Reddick all over again, and some were very high on Sands, Pimental. The only guy who was gushing positives was a crossover from the Pirates Message Board.

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

      I’ve said this before on Walker: I don’t think there’s a reason to extend him. He’s got 4 years of control remaining and he’ll be in his early 30s when he’s FA eligible. The Pirates have guys making their way through the lower levels of the system such as Alen Hanson and Dilson Herrera. They’ve got plenty of time to develop a replacement at second base for Walker.

      • http://www.facebook.com/ian.rothermund Ian Rothermund

        I have to agree with you, Tim. I’m not against Neil Walker being a Pirate his entire career, especially if he can produce. However, exactly what need is there to lock down a player of his caliber that still has 4 years of control? He’s already said he wants to stay with the organization….that’s giving up negotiating leverage right there. I also agree that there are seemingly legitimate prospects coming up through the system, but shouldn’t the focus be more on Walker’s production and what kind of player he’ll be at the end of his current deal? He plays a very solid second base, but his athleticism isn’t on the level of some of the upper echelon guys…that could degrade by the time he’s 31/32. We could be looking at a light hitting 1B/3B/utility player. Speaking of which, in comparison to McCutchen, Walker has yet to show a .300 avg, or any real amount of in-game power. To take a step back for a moment, I am a Walker fan, I just don’t think it’s necessary to act like he’ll be gone before we know it if the Pirates don’t offer to pay him double or triple what they would over the exact term. I say if he’s worth keeping, offer him something like a 3 yr deal the year before his final arb. season. Realistically, the end of that 3 yr deal will mark the twilight of his career, and if you still want him, he’ll he so emotionally connected with the team, they’ll be able to pay the guy peanuts and he’ll show up every day.

        • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

          Ian….I agree with you and Tim.

      • http://www.facebook.com/sean.matthews.165 Sean Matthews

        Tim, your 2016 projected lineup in the Pirates Prospect Guide gave me a simi

    • http://daleberrasstash.blogspot.com/ Kevin Creagh

      emjayinTN — In July, I proposed a contract extension for Walker.
      http://blogs.piratesprospects.com/creagh/the-case-for-walkers-extension/

      It used Ian Kinsler’s 1st deal and Cano’s first deal as data points. Ultimately, I wound up saying “add 1/2 a million here and there to Kinsler’s deal of 4 guaranteed years” and you have a deal.

      Kinsler was different in that 1 year was min scale, 3 arb years, 1 FA year. His non min-scales were $3, $4, $6, $7M. If you make Walker’s 4 arb years be $3, $4.5, $6.5, $7.5M with a $10M 5th year, that is 5 year, $31.5M as you suggested.

      Walker’s last year of team control is his age-30 season. One extra year in the deal is his age-31 season. It’s not like Walker is going to completely fall apart at age 31 — he’s an excellent athlete.

      Yes, 2B is an easy position to fill from failed SS and 3B, but you have a 2B right now that is a top tier NL 2B. There’s nothing wrong with getting cost certainty and showing your fanbase that you are committed to building a core.

      • emjayinTN

        Kevin: You looked at Cano/Kinsler and I looked closer.
        Brandon Phillips is now 32 and will be paid $10 mil in 2013; $11 mil in 2014; $12 mil in 2015; $13 mil in 2016; and $14 mil in 2017 when he will be 36 years old. Rickie Weeks will be 30 in 2013 and will be paid $10 mil; $10 mil in 2014; $11.5 mil Vesting option in 2015. Howie Kendrick is on the low end – he is 29 and in 2013 will be paid $8.75 mil; $9.35 mil in 2014; $9.5 mil in 2015.

        It is not whether we have to do this now or not, it is all about building the solid foundation for this club and signing a kid like Neil Walker sends positive signals out to the fan base of the Pirates. We just lost a very popular veteran in Hanrahan – nothing better for the team, the player, and the fan base than to step up and show that we are sincere about keeping our core group.

        • http://daleberrasstash.blogspot.com/ Kevin Creagh

          I’m not sure what you’re proposing or if you think my stance is different than yours. I think the Pirates should sign him for the same reasons you said in the back half of your comment.

          As for your first half of the comment, I have no idea what you’re trying to say. All of those players are on their post-arb contracts or 2nd contracts received from their teams. They don’t really have much in common with Walker’s situation.

          • emjayinTN

            Kevin Creagh: Just simply a listing of what it takes to hang onto a solid offensive and defensive second baseman in today’s market. Age does not seem to be a factor, and I wanted to list Brandon Phillips and Rickie Weeks because they are both in the NL Central.

  • Rebel

    Nobody here cares about is it or isn’t it a salary dump if we’d just get return back. Not a sack of marbles that so far multiple teams have given up on in the case of at least 3 of those players. Agree Hanrahan making 6 plus million is a bit steep for a small market team. Spin it anyway you like but in your own words Hanrahan has been “great” but not one player
    We got back is great. One you described as a bounce back candidate. Yippee!!! Spending 7 million on a starter is great also. How about spending it on someone who is “great” not someone who has been sitting with a high 5 era and you can argue is similar to Bedard only we get the new Bedard for 2 years. Liriano isn’t great and we pay 7 million a year for. Hanrahan could make close to 7 and you put him in the great category yet we get back hopes and bounce back candidates. Lucky us.

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

      “Not a sack of marbles that so far multiple teams have given up on in the case of at least 3 of those players.”

      Trading a player doesn’t equal giving up on a player. Houston traded Melancon for a pretty good return. He was a highly coveted reliever by Boston last year, and the Pirates are buying low on him.

      Sands and De Jesus were both in the Crawford/Gonzalez/Beckett/Punto trade. I could see an argument for someone giving up on De Jesus. He was recently waived and outrighted to Triple-A. But I wouldn’t say the other three were given up on.

      “Hanrahan could make close to 7 and you put him in the great category yet we get back hopes and bounce back candidates.”

      Yeah, that’s what the Pirates need to do. They shouldn’t be spending $7 M on great closers, because that has little impact on the team. They should be going for risky but high reward options like Liriano and Melancon.

      • IC Bob

        Tim it could be argued that Holt is a better prospect then any of the three guys we got. Two of the guys will be gone from the organization in one year. sands put up a big numbers in the friendliest park in America. No one leaves Alb. with less then a 300 average or double digit HRs so I am hardly sold on him. I can see Melancon making some noise but he just doesn’t excite me. Additionally I see the trend of now trading players at least one year if not two years before FA. It use to be said we could not keep a player past FA, now we can’t keep even within a year of FA (Karstens, Hanrahan etc).

        I read where they said Nutting is the 9th richest owner in the league. I don’t blame him for not wanting to lose money but it would be nice if for once he took a chance with this team and this fan base and spent the money..

    • http://www.facebook.com/sean.matthews.165 Sean Matthews

      We can’t even afford a Ryan Dempster contract let alone “Great” pitcher’s contract

  • Rebel

    If that’s what the Pirates need to keep doing then we can pretty much count of the same losing results to continue. This organization just doesn’t make good decisions. I’d expect more from the best front office in baseball. But hey it’s hokey hey Friday. Off to Manatee county…cool morning in Florida.

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

      Right. Melancon won’t bounce back from a bad year because that kind of stuff never happens for the Pirates. Except of course for Joel Hanrahan.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      Rebel…you sound an awful lot like a guy I ‘know’, a guy named Bizrow…esp when I read that ‘spin’ comment.

      He is ALWAYS negative.

      • pdad

        Ths trade, like a lot of pirate acquistions, requires players to bounce back or to play up to potential. In Hanrahan, you have a closer, who scared you at times, but could pretty much be counted on. While it does seem crazy to have 10% of your payroll go to your closer, the increase in cost to keep him is low, by MLB standards..

        This is what causes may fans, like myself, to frustrated by “salary dumps”. If Hanrahan had traded for someone who was producing in the majors last year, the reaction probabky woould have been different. If Melancon and Sands produce it could be a really good trade. But in December, the trade does not look good to many

        • buster09

          PDAD : do you mean if Hanrahan would have only been traded for someone who had produced in MLB the season before,as Hanny had when the Bucs traded for him ? Or should we just forget those kinds of details ?

          • pdad

            Yes, Hanrahan worked out but actually that trade was for Milledage, I believe. This trade can work out maybe it won’t. What if Melancon is the pitcher who was sent to AAA. What if Sands never amounts to anything. I think there would be less anxiety if Hanrahan was traded for Capuano, for example.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.dimmick.33 Steve Dimmick

    come on guys, Melencon has years remaining and he has experience closing. He had a bad year, i like the comparison to Hanrahan as he was basically the same when he came here. I liked Holt’s play, but getting Dejesus is basically the same, Holt would have been AAA with Mercer here with more power potential as thats what they look for. Sands has hit, although it be in hitter friendly parks, Alot of players do the same and are very successful in the bigs. He’s had roughly 240 ABs? he was the main piece to the trade, wait and see what he does before you judge this trade….this is one salary dump i dont mind (for now).

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      Steve….agree….we’re d**ned if we do and d**ned if we don’t. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll hear about it. If we had kept Hanny and then let him walk as a free agent, we’d hear about it.

      Fans forget so quickly that Hanny was horrible when we got him.

      • http://twitter.com/DJCarozza77 DJ Carozza

        That’s true. Somebody is gonna be mad no matter what we do. I think they made the right decision.

  • http://twitter.com/saywhatranone saywhatranone

    Overall, I think this is a pretty fair trade. Hanrahan was a very good closer but you simply can’t pay $7 mil for a closer with a $70 mil payroll. Especially with the likelihood that he will walk after this year.

    Melancon was roughed up in a couple outings last year, other than that was actually pretty good. From what I’ve read his fastball even increased to the 96 mph range.

    DeJesus is slightly better than Holt (probably depends on who you ask).

    Primental… eh not a fan but maybe he develops in to a bullpen guy (see Leroux, Resop, Watson, Hughes, etc). All of those guys, were failed starters in the minors. Still not expecting too much from him.

    Sands could be interesting. COULD. He did hit .255 with the Dodgers when he got some at bats two years ago. So we aren’t talking about Brad Eldred and his .200 BA swing.

    Again, the trade is pretty even. Could tilt to the Red Sox if Melancon doesn’t bounce back. Could tilt to the Pirates if Sands develops.

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

      I agree with the notion that the trade is even. It seems to fit the needs of both teams, and works for each market.

      With trades there’s a tendency to try and find a winner and a loser. Most trades are made with the goal of helping each team. This is one of those cases where it looks like the deal was fair for both sides.

      • http://twitter.com/saywhatranone saywhatranone

        i agree completely, most people want a clear cut winner/loser. it’s the unknown that scares most people. couple that with 20 years of losing and of course most are going to go over the top in bashing any move.

  • TonyPenaforHOF

    I think $80 million is the new $50 million today not two years from now. If the bucs took the payroll to $80 million today they could add Kyle Lohse and Gonzo to fill out the team. Or they could sign the two Cuban prospects in January to fill out our long term needs at shortstop and right field. Either way they need to spend $10/15 million more per year just to be competitive.

    • http://twitter.com/saywhatranone saywhatranone

      Big fan of Lohse and he’s always pitched well against us. Who is the Cuban SS?

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

      The new revenue deals don’t kick in until 2014. So a team spending $80 M today is the same as spending $80 M the last few years.

      • sammykhalifa

        It might be the same as far as financial impact to the owners, but wouldn’t you say that it buys a less talented team now? It seems salaries for very average players have gone up quite a bit in the past few years.

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

          I haven’t updated the list, but earlier in the off-season I looked at the $/WAR for each player signed. The average price was much lower than the previous two years. Looking at the contracts, I thought the prices had gone up. It turned out that they were lower. That might change with all of the signings considered (this was back prior to the winter meetings).

          • sammykhalifa

            Interesting. Admittedly I was basing that on perception and no real numbers at all.

  • scrappy2499

    I have mixed feelings about the hammer leaving…Hate to see a good teammate leave, but I think it was a good move by the pirates. Two years ago every time he went out i knew the Hammer would shut down the other team. Last year it felt like I had to hold my breath every time he came out…Melancon had a pretty good year after a few real bad games early in the year I thought + he pitches good in the NL. DeJesus is superior to Holt on D and I thought he makes good contact to all fields. He is currently playing quite well in the Winter League. Sands is supposed to hit for power and have good plate discipline (have to wait and see). I don’t know much about Primental but he can get to the mid 90’s with his fastball and has to very good off speed pitches so if he can get the fastball under control could return to prospect status…I’m looking forward to seeing what happens!

  • http://twitter.com/beatembuccos21 beatembuccos21

    I haven’t seen much written about Holt. Tim – any idea how Boston expects to use him?

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

      Not sure about that. Probably as minor league depth. They just signed Stephen Drew and they’ve got Ciriaco for the backup job. Then there’s Jose Iglesias. It would seem Holt is pretty far down on the depth chart.

  • Ecbucs

    Spending money wisely is key — but is this management group able to do it? While 70 million in 2013 may be the same as 70 million in 2011, other teams seem to have been able to raise payroll past the 70 million mark (other than Marlins and maybe Padres). So relatively speaking the Bucs have not been able to increase payroll in relation to their competitors.

    so far it is pretty questionable as far as this group being able to spend wisely – Barajas, Barmes, Overbay – not necessarily big contracts in scheme of baseball but big for this group.

    The problem with the team is player evaluation. We’ll see this year if it made a good evaluation on Grilli – if he is injured or implodes it will most likely be a long season. If Martin hits like he did last year and if his pitch framing abilities don’t help the staff improve the team is in trouble. If Liriano is able to improve to the level that AJ did last year that would be big help. If he is someone who falls apart when runners get on then he is going to be a bad signing. To me the filling of holes 1 year at a time is a big problem. Hopefully 2012 will provide answers to outfield situation for the next 3 or 4 years. Pedro and Walker should be around for at least 3 more years. Still no one knows about first base, or shortstop for 2014.

    • http://www.facebook.com/steve.dimmick.33 Steve Dimmick

      Are the SS and 1B holes still there as some say? Getting Gaby Sanchez could fill that hole. Before last season he was quietly hitting .280, 20 HR and 80 RBI…i’ll take that anyday at 1B. With the jumbled up mess in the OF, maybe GJ starts 1B. Either way, i like the 1B situation right now.

      Now for SS – Barmes cant possibly have a similar bad hitting year like last year. I look for his stats to improve and with that stellar “D”, it could be a turn around year for a few guys on this team.

      Problem is, there are alot of guys like that on this team this year. Barmes, Sanchez, Melancon, Liriano, Martin and even Grilli being an unknown to the closer world.

      • Ecbucs

        there is probably a 50-50 chance that Barmes is as bad on offense in 2013 as he was in 2012. He is older, plus he wasn’t that good in 2011. Would be great if he could even OPS 650.

        Sanchez has never hit 20 homers (although he has made it to 19) and that isn’t great for a power position. He would be better than Overbay but not a real plus on offense. The Bucs must expect him to do even better than he did in Miami (perhaps just switch in parks) if they thought he was worth the draft pick.

  • John Dreker

    I think the amazing thing is that, if the Pirates traded Hanrahan for Liriano and Melancon(assuming that could’ve been done) then no one would be calling it a salary dump. Since the Liriano signing was already done, it immediately went into the back of people’s minds. Yet the solid rumors didn’t start to really fly with Hanrahan until they signed Liriano, so he may have stayed had nothing worked out for a 4/5 starter.
    I read numerous times where people would’ve been fine with Hanrahan for Capuano, so how did it go bad by getting Liriano instead and four other players, while only throwing in Holt?

    • pdad

      Hanrahan was not traded for Liriano, his salary was. Why not have Liriano and Hanrahan play for the pirates? Is 7 million more really too much for the Pirates to spend if the team is better with Hanrahan and Liriano. It still may be but Melancon is not viewed by some as a proven reliever as Hanrahan

      • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.brooks.581 Stephen Brooks

        Two thoughts to this. First, there is a limit. Whether that limit is 65, 70 or 75 it exists. So is 7 million more really too much to pay? If it takes you over the limit, then yes it is (and not by a little, either).

        Thought #2: and even if it doesn’t take you over the limit, then I’m trying to find the next most important upgrade with that 7 million salary. And so on, and so on.

        Think of it this way: if you are building a 25-man team from scratch with a limited budget, what priority is your closer? 12th?

        • pdad

          I get it if you building a team from scratch and two years from now it may make good sense. But what about now? Pirates would have to increase Hanrahan’s salary from 4 to 7 million. Too much money if it betters your team? It is possible the team will be better because of the trade but maybe not.

        • Ecbucs

          all the recent Pirate managers have felt that closer was important. No one wanted to try a closer by committee, no one wanted to use designated closer except in save situations.

          $7 million is a lot for the Pirates to pay for any player. This year they decided it was better to spend that on a catcher. This was a deal where NH was trying to look ahead more to 2014 than 2013 (even if there is a chance he won’t be around in 2014). He wanted to make sure he got something for the Hammer now. The 2013 season will show whether that will go into the good or bad decision category for him.

          • Rebel

            Ok I’ll be more positive. We hope Melancon turns into what we already had in Hanrahan. I understand the 7 million is more than preferred for a closer. Point taken. But trading Hanrahan away didn’t make us better. We got worse for the for sure short term. Trading all stars away doesn’t make this team better. We’re hoping Melancon bounces back. We hope Martin doesn’t hit 210 is better than the 8 hole hitter he was with New York. We hope Liriano bounces back to pre surgery numbers. We hope Sands is lightning in a bottle. I like adding Martin and I like adding Liriano. But that kind of money for both is way too much. I guess we have to over pay free agents for them to come here. I would love to see more return for an all star closer. If Melancon turns out then I’ll be the first to say how wrong I was to blast this trade.

            • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.brooks.581 Stephen Brooks

              Ok, just to get our bearings, an “all star closer” isn’t as impressive as it sounds. 10 closers make the all star rosters, which is a third of the league.

              The truth is, closers don’t pitch enough innings to be that valuable. An average SP or position player is worth about the same as a really good closer. in Liriano you have a guy whose baseline – switching leagues and playing in front of a good defense – is about what you would expect from Hammer (1 WAR) and his upside is 3 wins better. There’s probably an 80% chance the Pirates get equal or gather value from Liriano alone.

              Which means if you get anything at all from Melancon, DeJesus or Sands in 2013, it’s not even close. Plus, you have those pieces in 2014 and beyond, whereas Hanrahan would surely be gone after he season.

              • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.brooks.581 Stephen Brooks

                Equal or greater. I need a real keyboard.

  • http://twitter.com/frsthypocrit frsthypocrit

    I don’t understand why *no one* is the *least bit* excited about Jerry Sands. He came up with a .289 .376 .562 .938 line in five seasons of minor league ball — all reasonably age appropriate. Yes, he was in the PCL. Still, between Sands and Snider (.308 .383 .528 .910 in 7 years of minor league ball and also some time in PCL) isn’t there a small likelihood that we’ve hedged our bets here and found at least one major league corner bat through 2015 for, essentially, Brad Lincoln and some fraction of Hanrahan & Holt’s value?

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      not excited one bit….he’s a AAAA player to me.

      • swartnp7

        I’m reading that from a lot of people. Why is that? Based upon what exactly? His MLB sample is considered small is it not? And didn’t people feel the same about GJones?

        I think the Sheltons, Eldreds, & Pearces have frightened us. I’m also of the thinking that at least one of Snider, Tabata, Sanchez, Robinson, Curry, or Sands will break out. The odds (I’m hoping) would suggest one of them would bear fruit. I would love it if NH bit the bullet and went after someone like CJ Cron, but I can understand the route he is taking.

  • keithconto

    While the Pirates have raised their payroll, so has everyone else. they’re currently 4th from the bottom in PR. As they have been for about 8 years IIRC. Frank, being the president of the team proabaly has access to budget projections and all that stuff. So he would be in a position to say the PR would go to about where it is now.

    but as many things Pirate this was a half truth. Or perhaps the question was framed poorly. the REAL question is whether or not the Pirates will ever move up the payroll ladder with respect to the other teams. Unless and untill that happens we will continue to see what we see now.

    Not enough talent to properly support the few good players that we do have. and we wont be a winning ORG.

    And while spending money wisely is important. It’s not the final answer. You can, for example, get the best $5 mil. pitcher out there, but he’s still a $5mil. pitcher in an era where the AVG is much higher and the truely good pitchers get much much more.

    they have to spend more in relation to other teams AND spend it wisely. Anything else will be unsucessful.

  • formerburgher

    The problem that I see in Huntington trading since becoming GM is that he goes for quantity over quality. Instead of getting one guy who you could plug into rotation or a top prospect to develope, he gets several mid 20s mediocre prospects. The system is already loaded with mediocre prospects.