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.
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.
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.
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?
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.