How Did the Trade Deadline Impact the 2013 Payroll?

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.

Projected Lineup

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.


Arbitration Eligible

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.


Positional Needs

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?

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I would let Hanrahan walk [as long as he is pitching well] and take the draft choich [s ]. I like the idea of a college player over a HS kid. You can teach a draft choich the Pirate way in the minors and not a veteran with a set way of doing things.

James S

Huntington’s history suggests that they won’t use a farm guy for the fifth starter role. I see a free agent or trade filling that spot. Even for the other bullpen spots too.

Jesse Davis

This could be where Neal’s previous strategy changes though. He’s never had such a guaranteed rotation plus 2 SP prospects ready in AAA. Usually the logic was to not start a player’s arb clock to save money on his future contract but this may have to be done to save dollars on the payroll for 2013.


kastens at 6 million seems like way to much money maybe try to sign to a 3yr 13.5 million dollar deal.

Vicente Barletta

Hey Tim: Isn´t James Loney a FA this offseason? Maybe there is a chance.
Between the Victorino, Pence and Headly rumors, the Justin Upton theme faded away, but I think the Pirates will try to go after him during the offseason.
The other thing I´m guessing is that Hanrahan is a very strong presence in the clubhouse, and the Pirates might try to work a 2 year $10M deal with him.
I don´t know, but it sure will fun to watch what happens from here on.

James S

Loney has NO power and stopped hitting last year.


Loney is atrocious. He’s not a starter and would not be a bench player for 50% of the teams in the league.

Lee Young

If I had a choice, I’d keep Jones over Gaby. Because they dealt Lincoln and DIDN’T bring up Morris, I think they’re gonna have to keep Hanny. Otherwise, they only have Grilli and Big Crazy that are dependable from the right side.

Will Conner

Hi Tim. My big questions is with the Pirates almost filling PNC Park now even for day games in the middle of the week, do you think this will give the Pirates more financial flexibility than they expected? Could we maybe see $80 million as a potential for total salary for 2013? Or should we keep with the $70 million projection?


A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog piece here called The $21 Million Dollar Kick. In it, I showed how the attendance increase in 2012, a potential playoff game, and increased 2013 season ticket sales could increase revenue by $21M.
All of that revenue won’t go directly to payroll, of course, but I would expect a decent increase of payroll for 2013. I wouldn’t expect it to go from $51M to $75 in 1 year, though.


Great work and great article. I do hope Grilli does stick around next year he just seems to be a positive influence on the younger arms in the bullpen and would be vital if Morris, Black and Welker make the opening day squad.


Package deal of Hanrahan and Jones could probably net us a pretty good 1B or OF. I really like Jones but not sure he is worth the money. I also think if you’re going to take on a big name player (Melky for example) you can afford to have a weaker link somewhere (Barmes). Now I am not saying we get Melky but making the right decisions could net us someone like him. It would increase the payroll and maybe hurt us but maybe not. Just thinking out loud.


For the purposes of this article, it is correct to put Grilli in the FA pile. However, the combination of his relationship with Hurdle plus the faith in the Pirates for renewing his career will virtually ensure his presence with the Pirates in 2013. Most likely he will be the closer, if the Pirates trade Hanrahan in the offseason.

Andrew Smalley

Great article, Tim. Really lays it out in good detail about where the Bucs resources are headed.

If I had one objection, it would be tendering Chris Resop. Frankly, I don’t even think he is worth the relatively small amount that he would get next year. Based on the track record of this FO w/r/t the bullpen (as you rightly cite), I am pretty confident they could fill in Resop’s spot w/ more value either from outside or inside the organization.

Other than that, though, I’m on board. I’d like them to see if it makes sense to sign Grilli for another year (if that is his market) w/ the potential to close thrown in, a la Octavio Dotel. If we are able to trade Hanrahan (which we should definitely explore), Grilli would seem to have the inside track.


Very good job with this. I think you have a few of the arb numbers a touch too high and Walker a touch too low but we are probably speaking a net difference of maybe a million. I had estimated it would cost 70 million to retain everyone under contract and arb eligible (McGehee, Morton and Meek included) so it seems like I am on the same page.


For years we have heard this team will be in the range of $70 – $80 million when they are ready to win. They should be able to keep the productive players at reasonable prices. Having said that, I think Hanrahan is gone – and should be. $7 million for a closer is too much, even in the inflated market.

IC Bob

Why are we all so quick to suggest Hanrahan gets traded? $7.5 million is high but quite frankly he is worth it. Additionally he would likely command a nice comp pick if he does become a FA. I am one who thinks closers are over valued but for this team at this time Hanrahan has been a rock when we have needed him


The game has changed on getting comp picks for FA’s-to be. Now you have to extend a qualifying offer, regardless of position, that is top 10% salary. This offseason that number will be around $13M. So the Pirates would have to extend a $13M qualifying offer and Hanrahan would have to turn it down to get a draft pick. Neither of those things are happening.


What are the odds they make a run at re-signing Grilli?


95%. Let me put it this way — I would be shocked if they don’t try and re-sign him before FA starts.

Marcus J

I knew once they acquired Wandy that killed any chance of getting a hitter that would have a sizable price tag in 2013. I think the Bucs will try to resign Grilli and give him the inside track on the closer role after they deal Hanrahan.

Brian Gahagen

Great work. It appears that with increased revenue from fans attending the games and what you would expect to be a pennant chase this year and high expectations next year the increase in payroll should coincide. At first I didn’t like the way they were paying down debt from the revenue sharing they receive but from a business prospective it makes sense. If they could decide to pay only half the debt they originally decided to pay with that money and use the other half to increase payroll we could maybe get into the $80 million bracket if needed and that would allow us to sign some of our guys long term instead of loosing them so early in their careers.

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