An Early Look at the Pirates’ 2015 Payroll Shows Plenty of Room For Russell Martin

Today I finished putting together the 2015 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 2015 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. Finally there are the projected roster decisions. I didn’t include projected free agents, since that’s unpredictable. I mostly stuck with players who were out of options, or who didn’t play a huge role at the end of the season. For example, Jaff Decker wasn’t a September call-up and Jeanmar Gomez wasn’t added to the Wild Card roster, so I listed them as projected non-tenders.

I projected a 25-man roster when making this payroll chart, although this year was a little difficult. For example, the current catching combo is Chris Stewart and Tony Sanchez. I expect that to change, regardless of whether Russell Martin is brought back. Right now that accounts for $2 M in payroll. Any additions would remove at least $500,000 of that amount, with Sanchez or Stewart being removed from the list. I also left a few spots open. I didn’t project two starting pitching spots, and I didn’t project one of the backup infield spots. These will likely be filled by free agents.

The Pirates are currently projected for a $65,452,500 payroll in 2015. A lot can change with that figure. As an example, last year they had a projected $60,924,500 when I first made the chart around this time of year. The end of year payroll estimate was $81,394,476. Their Opening Day payroll projection in 2014 was slightly higher than their end of the year projection in 2013. If that trend continues, then they’ll have at least $16 M to spend this off-season, and likely more than that when you consider that the current projection has some money that would disappear with certain off-season moves. To get an idea of what can impact that figure, let’s look at some of the biggest contract issues.

Russell Martin

The biggest topic this off-season is going to be Russell Martin. Right now the Pirates are at a projected $65 M, and I think Martin would cost at least $15 M per year, putting them in the $80 M range. If they signed Martin, they would probably have to go with reclamation projects for their remaining starting pitching roles. If they signed two reclamation projects to go with Martin, that would put them in the $95 M range. If they didn’t bring back Martin, they could afford a bit more for the starting pitchers, although their success with the reclamation approach says they should stick to this plan. Martin will be the biggest factor this off-season. For those wishing for a $90-100 M payroll, it would be likely if they brought him back.

Let me just say that there’s no reason the Pirates can’t spend in the $90-100 M range comfortably. Last year they tried going after A.J. Burnett and James Loney. If those deals would have been accepted, they would have been in the mid-80s on Opening Day, and likely in the low-90s by the end of the year. So they’ve shown the money is there if needed, and Martin is the type of player who warrants that need.

First Base

There is no way that the Pirates are going to keep Pedro Alvarez, Ike Davis, and Gaby Sanchez as first basemen. I have the trio making just under $14 M, and that would have one of Davis or Alvarez on the bench most of the time. I could see one of those two getting traded. As for Sanchez, I think his job is safe, although the Pirates could go a creative route and have Tony Sanchez take over the right-handed side of the platoon. This would only work if they brought back Russell Martin and Chris Stewart as the catchers. Overall, the Pirates will probably save at least $4 M by making a decision on two of their three first basemen. If they got creative with the right-handed side of the platoon, they could expand that potential savings to at least $7 M.

Free Agency/Trades

This is going to be a big year for the Pirates in free agency and on the trade market. They’re going to pursue Russell Martin, and if he signs elsewhere, they will need to find some sort of solution other than having Tony Sanchez and Chris Stewart as their catching combo. They will need to get at least one starting pitcher, and most likely two. The first base situation mentioned above will also clear some of the current projected payroll space. Beyond that, they could look to add relievers and bench players, although I think they will go with more minor league free agents or guys barely making over the league minimum in this regard.

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. In 2012-13 the Pirates added about $7 M per season during the regular season. Last year the Pirates added about $6.5 M in-season. In previous years it has been as high as $11 M. 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.

Accuracy

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. The 2013 total was a little over half a million lower than the actual amount. So based on those four years, the estimate has a margin of error of $1.36 M on average.

Analysis

  • I’m just not comfortable giving 4 years and that much money to a catcher who will be 32 on opening day. He’s already missed time with injuries. I think the Bucs need to let him go. I agree he’s pretty much the reason they’ve done as well as they have, but it’s time to build for the future. The odds of him playing full seasons for even 2 more years much less 4 aren’t that great.

  • I’ve been saying and will say again, 2015 is the year the bucs have the best shot of winning it all. The core is at it’s peak, the minor league pipeline is in place, revenues are up ect., now all we need is the front office to pony up for martin and at least one solid veteran pitcher as well as the ubiquitous reclamation project. The fo paying for the upgrades needed is the biggest question mark. Come what may this promises to be an interesting off season. Let’s just hope the brass makes at least as much effort as the guys on the field do to win.

  • The Grey Ghost
    October 7, 2014 10:09 pm

    Please do not make the mistake of assuming Russell Martin is an elite catcher. In 2014, his BABIP (.336) was 30 points above his career rate. His infield hit % jumped by 8%. His flyable BABIP was almost 70 points above his career rate. His line-drive rate was 100 points higher than 2013. Martin is the most likely player in baseball to suffer from regression to the mean next year. Martin is a 95 to 105 wRC+ hitter, and he is almost certainly never going to approach a 140 wRC+ ever again.

    Martin is a quality defender and a decent hitter. He is a very good baseball player. But he is not going to be worth the contract that will be required to keep him. Signing a 32 year old catcher to an expensive, long-term contract is not likely to work out well for the Pirates.

    The Bucs could better use that cash to sign Polanco long term and acquire a couple of starters. Justin Masterson and Brandon McCarthy would be quality starters.

    • The most telling stat on Martin is his home / away splits:

      PNC Park: .343 AVE, .939 OPS
      Away: .245 AVE, .736 OPS

      To me that doesn’t scream regression. That tells me that Martin has changed his hitting approach to suit the ball park he plays in.

      It’s fairly obvious just from watching him hit. He hits more to the opposite field (short right in Pittsburgh) than he ever did in his career. He tapes the bat handle to protect from getting sawed off inside. He works deeper counts (4.21 Pitches per plate appearance this year trailed only Matt Carpenter, Christian Yellich, and Jason Werth in the NL). He wears the pad on his elbow to defend against the inside pitches (hit by pitch 15 times – tied for 5th in NL with Anthony Rizzo).

      Martin in short did everything in his power to improve his offensive output and it shows. I don’t chalk this up to luck.

      Obviously, I can’t get inside Martin’s head to figure out whether the kind of effort he put in this year will carry through once a big contract is given to him. But it is apparent to me at least that this season was not a fluke, a lot of effort went into his results.

      • Couldn’t agree more, Frank. I get really annoyed at how so many sabermetrically-inclined “experts” and fans chalk up higher BABIP numbers to luck without analyzing it deeper AND watching the player’s at bats. If you watch the games, it’s obvious that Martin radically changed his approach this year by going up the middle and opposite field when pitched outside instead of being pull happy like he was in 2013 (and he was probably pull happy with the Yankees, but I didn’t watch him play there). He also shortened his stroke and sacrificed power with 2 strikes to make more contact. Sure, he may not hit .290 next year, but if he continues to follow this year’s successful approach, there’s no reason why he can’t be a much more consistent hitter than he was in 2012-2013.

        • The Grey Ghost
          October 8, 2014 8:20 am

          I love having the power to get you “really annoyed” simply by writing a message on this website. I hope this comment annoys you even more.

      • The Grey Ghost
        October 8, 2014 8:31 am

        2014 was not a fluke. It was an outlier on the edge of Martin’s ability. He is unlikely to sustain his 2014 level of production. But it does not matter whether we agree… in a year we will know for sure.
        It seems foolish to pay Martin the highest salaries of his career for his decline years. Smart teams pay for the production they anticipate going forward rather than past production.
        Obviously no need for us to agree. My opinion is that Martin would be worth a 3 year $36 million contract, but nothing more. But thankfully for us all, it is not my decision to make.

        • I don’t necessarily agree that this was outlier of Martin’s ability. In his first 3 years with the Dodgers, Martin had the following lines:

          2006 – .282 AVE, .791 OPS
          2007 – .293 AVE, .843 OPS
          2008 – .280 AVE, .781 OPS

          Compare that to this past years numbers
          2013 – .290 AVE, .832 OPS

          A .280 to .290 AVE, with an .780 to .830 OPS is well within Martin’s early career norms.

          I am thinking more like a staggered contract:
          1st Year: $15 million
          2nd Year: $12.5 million
          3rd Year: $10 million
          4th Year (Option): $8 million

          We aren’t that far off on the three years, but if the offensive production holds, the Pirates platoon him at 1st / 3rd base in his fourth year and catch on travel days.

      • Mabie after a Career of BIG money teams he finally reizes Money cant by wins Dogers are postseason choke artist

    • Not to appear to be against all of your suggestions there Ghost, but Justin Masterson lost 2.7 mph off his fastball, and the probable $ 12 million dollar contract it would take to get him seems like one helluva gamble to me. When you see that kind of a velo drop off, there is usually a physical problem somewhere right behind.

  • Arik Florimonte
    October 7, 2014 7:21 pm

    If I’m in charge, no way do I pay Ike Davis $4.5M, nor Gaby $3M. They were both below replacement value last year. Cumulatively they were -0.4 WAR each, and the only one worse was Nix. There is no world in which -0.8 WAR is worth $7.5 million.

    I’d rather take my chances with a Alvarez, or Travis Snider, or a Lambo/TSanchez platoon, and save $6M, and put that toward Russell Martin. Trade or non-tender both Davis and Sanchez.

  • The Pirates can very well afford a payroll in the $90M range. They were willing to take on salary at the deadline and with AJ in the offseason that would have easily put them at/over $90M. With that in mind I think they probably have $25M to spend in offseason and another $5M during season. That’s plenty of money to make some high quality moves. The question isn’t/shouldn’t be if they can…it will be/should be if they WILL. And I hope the answer is yes.

    • The question should always be “is it a good idea to spend this kinda money in this kinda way?” If they gave $20 million extra to every guy on the 40-man, they’d be up there with the Yankees and Dodgers in terms of payroll; they’d also be paying Brent Morel $20 million.

    • Tim has it exactly right in the headline. The Pirates – in 2015 and likely 2016 – can fairly easily afford Martin. The issue for them is 2017 and 2018 where they will deal with possible (probable) declining production and more expensive roster construction around Russ.

      There is also no way they keep Ike AND Pedro… and IF they re-sign Russ, I can definitely see Gaby packing his bags. I THINK (but don’t know) they can fill the RH platoon in a more flexible, less expensive way.

      The other decisions are: QO on Frankie ? Yes, easy, as he won’t take it. And offer Volquez? I say yes, but kept to around 2 years $15M and see what happens.

      There WILL be starting pitching options to fill the rotation later in the FA period… as placeholders to a hopeful eventual ascension of Taillon and perhaps Kingham.

      One other wild card… possible trade of Melancon to free the spot for Watson, take advantage of his peak value and teams in need, and free up some salary for starting roatation help. Wouldn’t surprise me.

      • Why would you keep both Ike and Pedro and get rid of the only person who can hit lefties at all (not saying Gaby is a world beater against lefties at all but he’s better by FAR than Ike and Pedro). Why keep both?

        I think Melancon could be gone, Gaby and another 1B could be gone…especially with Lambo as a possibility as another cheap LH 1B option.

        I wonder if Philly would want to unload Lee (if he would be healthy enough to even consider) for a decent price and us just assume $$$ essentially. Not that I think that’s likely, but just thinking out-loud.

        The Pirates can definitely swing a payroll in the $90s and should…

  • Tim,
    Wondering what your thoughts are for John Axford’s future in Pittsburgh. $4.5 million salary for a 6th / 7th inning reliever seems steep.

  • Another idea at 1B to save money. I know it’s not his primary position (but he doesn’t play there), but perhaps the Bucs should look at Scott Van Slyke to fill the right side of the platoon at 1B. He’d give us Gaby like numbers against lefties, save us some money (he can’t be as expensive as Gaby), and give us a RF fill in for Polanco if he continues to struggle mightily against tough lefties.
    I’m certain that I’m getting caught up in his last name, but I think he might make some sense (both financially and from a playing standpoint).

    • He’d be great, but he has 5 years of control left and just came of a 3 WAR year.

      Trading for him would command a king’s ransom as far as prospects. Well… not a king’s ransom. But a lot more than you’d think.

      Yeah he’s cheap moneywise, but that’s exactly the reason why he’d be expensive prospect wise.

      • A team might be able to get VanSlyke for a relatively low prospect cost if they were also to assume Crawford’s or Ethier’s contract. LAD has to find a place for Joc Pederson.

        Anyway, Bucs would not be participating in such a scenario.

      • And the Dodgers won’t be shopping for bullpen help this offseason? Watson / Melancon for Van Slyke?

        • lonleylibertarian
          October 8, 2014 1:00 pm

          The Dodgers sure could be in the marker for bullpen help – I would think a package could be worked out if the FO was so inclined. He doesn’t have a ton of starts at first – but he has played there and love the historic tie.

    • They want fan Support Scott Van Slyke would definitely bring a buzz in the burgh since his dad was a Pirate

  • lvanderwarker
    October 7, 2014 1:44 pm

    Tim, what are your thoughts about Masterson being the next “reclamation project?” Maybe you’ve already commented on this but I haven’t seen it talked about

      • It is being suggested by MLBTR that Masterson will take a pillow contract next year to rebuild his value so he can command a long-term deal for 2016 and beyond.

        The projected cost of said one-year pillow contract: $12 million.

        Hardly what I’d call in the range of a reclamation project.

        • That’s where I wonder if the Pirates might now have an advantage. They have shown a tendency to fix pitchers and improve their values. So maybe they could get reclamation projects at a bigger discount than other teams, in exchange for the added value those pitchers would receive on the open market the following year.

          • Not saying that I disagree with you, but I think sometimes we overestimate this perceived value of being a good place for “reclamation projects”. If every single athlete had the self-awareness to recognize that they aren’t playing up to their potential and could put aside their ego long enough to realize that somebody else is needed to help them, then I would agree wholeheartedly.

            But these guys are athletes, the best in the world, and way better than anyone around them all through their lives. They did enough to get to the big leagues. I imagine most of them, if they even can admit to having an off-year, figure that they can figure it out or sort themselves out on their own. And most of them certainly wouldn’t label themselves as “reclamation projects”. How often do you hear a slumping hitter say, that “when a few more balls starting dropping in”? That says that they aren’t going to change anything and that they don’t think it’s THEIR problem, but that they feel that things will eventually change on their own.

            I’m not entirely sure that if you asked A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez or any of the others on the day that they arrived to the Pirates, “Are you a reclamation project?” that any of them would have said “yes”.

            But, I could be completely wrong on that.

            • Volquez admitted that he signed in Pittsburgh because of the performance of Liriano.

              “I saw what happened to him the year before he signed here, he was struggling,” Volquez said. “He signed with this team, and they made him better. They fixed him.”

              http://www.post-gazette.com/sports/pirates/2014/07/01/Volquez-movin-and-groovin/stories/201407010120

              Players know that there are better situations to improve their value. For awhile the Padres and Bud Black were known to be a good place for pitchers to re-establish value. I think Pittsburgh has also become such a place, Volquez knew this and was smart enough not to sign a multiple year deal. I also don’t think any right handed power hitters are coming to Pittsburgh any time soon.

          • lonleylibertarian
            October 8, 2014 2:23 pm

            It would help if they would address some of their defensive shortcomings – agents and players can get at team and individual defensive metrics – a pitch to contact pitcher would rather have +DRS guys behind him up the middle.

        • i’d rather do Masterson at 1×12 than Volquez at 2 for 20.

          • Masterson might be an injury waiting to happen.

            • All pitchers are an injury or a loss in velocity waiting to happen. They are all ticking bombs which is why long term contracts for pitchers are horrible ideas. Someone gets left holding the potato eventually

      • lvanderwarker
        October 7, 2014 3:05 pm

        you’re right. sorry. i agree though that maybe pitchers will see pittsburgh as a “safe haven” to reignite their careers. i think he could be a HUGE asset as a guy who can miss bats

    • I looked at all the FA starting pitchers for this year and I think he is the best candidate for the job.

  • I think the biggest issue will be pitching. Right now, excluding re-signings we have Cole, Worley, Locke and Possibly Morton at ST and who knows if he’ll stay healthy. So we will need to add 3-4 pitchers to see what shakes out. Cumpton is a viable 4-5 type starter giving you innings but relying on defense. The other issue is the high end pitching prospects in AAA next year. While you don’t want to block Taillon or Kingham. Who knows how they will progress in AAA. And would they be blocked by a signing. Volquez might be willing to re-sign and that’s fine with me. His metrics won’t be the best unless the Pirates feel he will continue with the same pitching line he had this year. I’ve heard Brandon McCarthy’s and Justin Masterson’s name thrown out as possible reclamation projects. While I don’t like doing it, I suppose every team does it to some extent.

  • Pedro (by way of Harrison) is the backup IF. Pedro will start 40+ games at 3B this year for the Pirates. Harrison will start as many games at 2B as he will at 3B and will get a handful of games at SS.

    Pedro is back mainly because there is no way can Huntington trusts Walker for a full season and Hanson isn’t ready yet.

    Pedro, Ike, Harrison, Snider and Polanco all get between 400-500 ABs.

    • No way Pedro is back up IF. Pedro will start at 1B next year barring injury unless he goes to a fall league to work on 3B and see if he can get his throwing issues out of the way. There is a slight difference in position, but nothing a good athlete like Pedro couldn’t learn. 3B is a hot corner, so to me not much of a difference at 1B. Yes there’s differences in position, but he can learn in the Fall, Spring Training. We need to improve production at 1B and this would/could easily do it. He’s not that far removed from 30 HR/100 RBI 2 year ago now. Hitting sometimes regresses do to defensive issues.

      Pedro is also still under contract for this year and is set to be a FA/Arb eligible? So, the club should be playing Alvarez and hoping he gets well. If he performs well, it will be difficult to trade him as he will be helping the pirates in the playoff chase next year. If he performs well and the rest of the team does not, then we can flip him for some high end prospects. If he falls flat, then we could keep him and try to resign him for a much lesser fee or something of that nature. BUT IMO, we need to see what we have in him. He does struggle against lefties, but in order to get the most out of him, we need to play him whether it be for his bat or for trade bait.

      My guess is that the PBC could tender Barmes another contract as Back up utility and it wouldn’t be too expensive unless someone outbids us for his services to start. Snider is going to be the 4th OF seeing as the club DFA’d Tabata.

      • Noone would ever pay a mid 30’s light hitting shortstop to start, Omar Vizquel couldn’t even pull that off at the end of his career

  • Bucs will know by mid-November if they have Martin or not.

    If they do retain him, they still need to at a minimum replace 4 WAR from pitching lost. Ideally more.

    If they don’t retain him, they’ll need to add 10 WAR. Ideally more. And at best they get perhaps 2 of that from whomever the new catcher is. Let’s say Polanco/Snider does 2.5 WAR better than 2013 and pitching WAR stays the same through whatever acquisitions are made. You’d still need an additional 2 WAR from the IF, and I don’t think that’s coming from Pedro at 1b.

    • Remember you can’t sum the total of WAR to get a number of wins for the team, it isn’t meant to do that. So replacing WAR is really looking at it the wrong way.

      That being said, NOT having Pedro making 46 throwing errors at third base probably buys you a gift 1-1.5 war by itself, and assuming he hits anywhere around normal, that’ll buy you another 2 war. Mercer’s 2 additional war comes from him not hitting like sammy khalifa the first two months of the season

      • Correlation between total team WAR and wins is around 0.8, and standard deviation is 6-7 wins, it is fairly accurate.

  • Zero reason their payroll can’t be in the $95-100 million range. The way I see it they’ve got a lot a money to spend this offseason. Not that I think they will, but it’s there. Use it to go add two starting pitchers, and do something about catcher once Russ walks.

    • Zero reason their payroll can’t be in the $95-100 million range.

      _________________________________________________
      Source?

      • Frank Coonelly.

        • He said that?

          • He said when the time was right, the Pirates could win, and the fans came out in support they would spend and raise the payroll to the $90-100 million range. Well guess what Frank, all those are now true. Like I said, I don’t expect them to do anything this offseason, but sure would be nice if they did.

            • Actually, that was in response to a question wondering if they could spend $70-80 M.

              • Well then it makes their job a lot easier this offseason when they do the bare minimum and go into next year with a payroll around $73 million, a rotation filled with holes, and no catcher.

                • Yes, since their track record shows they choose to enter seasons that way. Brilliant.

                  • I don’t trust this front office one iota, and that won’t change until they give me a reason to. The way they handled last offseason and the trade deadline took away the trust I was starting to have in them after last year. The rotation on Opening Day will be Cole, Worley, Locke, Cumpton, and some reclamation project. So 3 guys that are #4 or #5 pitchers (calling Locke and Cumpton #5 pitchers is generous), and someone who they’re hoping to fix after being bad this year. My guess is Masterson. That’s not a good rotation. The bullpen will still be a mess with Hughes, Watson, and Melancon being the lone reliable arms. And them trading Watson or Melancon wouldn’t surprise me because they won’t be interested in giving two relievers a combined $7 million. Chris Stewart will be one of the catchers, and I am perfectly fine with him as a back up, however I fear the other will be some bum like Nick Hundley. My hopes aren’t very high for the 2015 Pirates.

                    • Just a repeat comment from someone such as your self in late 2013. Unless you are a clairvoyant, you have absolutely no clue as to what will happen in the next couple of months. Come up with something new, and intelligent, and possibly others might take you seriously here. Otherwise…..?

                    • I have no idea what will happen, you are correct. However, I fear nothing will happen and this team will suffer terribly due to it. Until this FO gives me a reason to, I do not trust them nor do I believe in them.

                    • Go right on fearing…..or whatever your problem is.

                    • My problem is my favorite baseball team’s GM is not very good.

                    • Your problem should be that your manager has no ability to manage a game. Your GM has actually done a great job. He hasn’t done unnecessary things that would end up making us worse long term, hasnt overcommitted money to overpriced veterans, and has managed to find enough pieces and draft enough decent players to not only keep us competitive but get us a winning record in back to back years. I’m not sure what else you want from a GM

                    • They don’t care Marty- they really don’t.

                    • Arik Florimonte
                      October 7, 2014 7:23 pm

                      They were one of the top 5 teams in Run Differential per game and in W/L after July 31. I think they handled the trade deadline just fine.

                    • Had they added pitching help they would’ve been a better team, your goal should always be to field the best team possible. Not adding pitching cost them the division.

                    • Arik Florimonte
                      October 7, 2014 7:37 pm

                      Marty, maybe you’re right. I would love to have seen David Price come over, especially given what he ended up costing.

                    • I think had they added another reliable reliever to go with Hughes, Watson, and Melancon they would’ve won the division. Let alone if they had added a top notch starter like Price.

                    • And I think Price woulda got injured in his first start at PNC and been a nonfactor.

                      I mean, as long as we’re playing the “what if” game…

                    • I suppose Andrew MCCutchen’s Injury, or Russell Martin’s earlier DL period didn’t hurt them a bit ? If that is why think, you have a lot more to fear than the Pirates’ management.

                    • Yes those hurt, but despite them they still damn hear won the division. I can’t help but think, what if they had added 1 more arm. Just what if. Look at when they were swept in DC, without Cutch I mind you, they lost all 3 by 1 run including being walked off twice. With a better bullpen arm they should have gotten at the deadline, odds are they win at least one of them. That’s just one example of how deadline inactivity cost them.

                    • ResistanceIsUseless
                      October 8, 2014 9:50 am

                      IIRC, reports were that the Pirates offered 3 significant prospects + Marte for Price. Just think about where the Pirates would have been in August & September without Marte’s production. Especially consider what the outfield would have looked like while McCutchen was on the DL! (Also remember that Harrison was subbing at SS during part of that stretch, so he couldn’t have gone to the OF!)

                    • No- it didn’t. We pitched extremely well over the stretch run, even with better players, thinking they would have played better than the players we had (who were playing above their level of talent) is extremely unlikely. The only way we win that division would have been to shoot Pedro Alvarez in the foot on April 27th, and not to trade Grilli for a landmine

                    • If they had acquired even a reliable bullpen arm at the deadline, I’d bet money they would have won at least 2 extra games.

                    • lonleylibertarian
                      October 7, 2014 9:03 pm

                      No – your goal is to accumulate lots of prospects – many of whom will fail and you want be sure to maximize years of control – so you can field a team the will make the playoffs by the skin of their nose if things break right for them. Putting your team in position to win their Division or pray forbid the World Series is for suckers like Baltimore and KC. If one of them should go on to win the Series their idiot fans will expect them to do it again.

                      The best thing you can do is pay down debt and sock away a few bucks for a ski lift or two – and keep hoping the suckers in Pittsburgh keep buying tickets and merchandise. Putting a team capable of winning the World Series is both expensive and stupid. You only need to read the comments on this and other Pittsburgh blogs to see that.

                      Time to shut off the cash flow if this team trots out a $65M payroll IMHO. Won’t happen but should.

                    • Can never, ever trade prospects. Not even when you have arguably the deepest farm system in baseball. Might have too much of a negative effect on the 2019 team. No need to spend on proven solid commodities, such as Ervin Santana or Brandon McCarthy, because you can always bring in a reclamation project and hope they go the route of Volquez instead of the route of Frieri or Jon Sanchez! This payroll SHOULD be at least $90 million this year, if not even higher. But we all know the Pirates will never have a $90+ million payroll.

                    • Noone should ever trust any front office as their job is to make money and balance that against the goal of winning games. That being said, Cole, Worley, Locke, and Cumpton are just fine. Locke would be starting in almost every rotation in the majors and some higher than a #5, Cumpton also has displayed enough to warrant handing him the 5th starter job. Do we need 1 veteran to add to the mix thanks to Morton getting hurt? yes, but that’s all we need, and it doesn’t have to be a big name. I’ve had a torn hip labrum, it’s not a big deal. He will be back and at worst be ready to pitch on May 1st as long as he doesn’t have some sort of arm setback unrelated to the hip issue. We will have 2 other pitchers ready by midseason and we’ve already proven we can get by with mediocre pitching for a month or two to begin the season. Assuming we don’t go 20-40 heading into mid june, i don’t see why its a big issue.

                    • Locke ? Seriously ? Cumpton ? Locke’s lucky to have a starting job. On most teams he’d be a spot starter. He had his 15 min. of fame last year. Remember Zach Duke ? Same kind of pitcher. When he does pitch in a rotation he quickly gets exposed. Cumpton is a fringe ML starter. At best. Worley has to have everything go right in order to be effective. That’s about the definition of a 5th starter. I can accept that a torn labrum isn’t a big deal, you’ve had one, I haven’t. What I cant’ accept is that this is Morton’s 3rd significant injury. and except for one extended stretch hasn’t proven he can be consistant. They need 2 guys to go with Cole and hope they can keep it together until Taillon, Morton and maybe someone else can ehlp them.

                    • if Masterson is the 2015 Bucco Reclmation project I will SHOT MYSELF

                • Except for the catcher this post sounds like what everyone was saying about the team at the beginning of the year. The Pirates like the stadium full, they will find a way to fill it again and if they do i don’t care how much it cost to do it. I will never figure out why the fan base and media worry so much about the payroll, give me a winner and if you can do it for 10 bucks, okay with me. The only time payroll gets on my nerves is when some dumb team spends 200mil on a player and jacks up all their prices then finishes near the bottom of the barrel or does it the Philly way and ties themselves up with long term contracts for has-beens.

                  • If they want to fill the holes in the rotation, they need to spend. Which I don’t trust or believe in them enough to think that they will.

                    • Or they could call up Taillon if he’s healthy and ready. Or Sadler could develop. Or McPherson could be healthy and ready. Or they could find another reclamation project like Volquez. Or Gomez could start for a few games. Or they could stash a bunch of MLB-retreads at AAA and call upon whoever is hot at the moment. Or they could make a trade for another Worley-type pitcher that needs a change of scenery. Or they could make a trade for a near-ready prospect.

                      But, other than those 10 or so options… yeah, they need to spend money.

                    • That’s banking on a lot of unprovens (Taillon, Sadler, McPherson). If you’re comfortable with banking on guys like that to help you contend, you’re nuts. Taillon won’t even be ready until late in the summer anyway. It would behoove them to add at least 2 quality, proven starting pitchers this offseason. I don’t expect them to do that, but they really need it. Trusting guys like Kyle McPherson, Casey Sadler, and Jeanmar Gomez (who will most likely be non-tendered anyway) to help anchor a rotation back to the playoffs is foolish and a massive risk that will most likely blow up in your face.

                    • Oh yeah, I forgot: no FA pitcher ever gets injured or underperforms. How silly of me.

                      Dude, there’s like 10 options I put forth. Having 1 or 2 of ’em work out is enough to solve the problem without paying top dollar for a FA pitcher.

                    • I don’t expect any of those options, minus Taillon if he gets healthy, to pan out. And like I said, Taillon wouldn’t be in the Majors until late in the summer anyway. There’s a difference between options, and good options.

                    • Nobody expects FA’s to flop or get injured, either. So much so, that fans typically ignore the rather significant risk that they will.

                      You griped– loud and long, if I do say so– about these problems all season. What you saw as incompetent inaction and refusal to upgrade turned out to be the lack of desperation moves made possible by impressive pitching depth. Many of the guys who make up that depth, you repeatedly dismiss as marginal or worse– and yet, they contributed to a winning record and postseason appearance. Bottom line: I think the FO has a much more realistic assessment of what options are good and what aren’t.

                    • If they handle this offseason like they did last, they’ll win 75 games next year. Like I’ve said I have zero trust or faith in this FO. Until they do something to prove me wrong, it will remain that way. Yes making the postseason again this year was great, but they could have been better. Hell, they couldn’t even get the decision on who to pitch in the Wild Card Game right! They made sure to save a blunder for the final game of the year. Pretty fitting after all their blunders in the offseason, and then during the season.

                    • Sorry, but I have much, much less trust in your assessments than I do the FO.

                      I recall the losing record you predicted in spring training earlier this year, too. And Walker declining. And Volquez being a waste. And Polanco being ready. The list goes on. Nobody’s clamoring for you to be named the next Nostradamus, you know.

                    • Cole over Volquez was a no brainer. He’s better, more talented, and (minus ERA) had the better season. His peripherals, walk rate, and K rate were all much better. I was wrong about Volquez, but Walker has declined immensely in the field.

                    • You didn’t say Walker was gonna decline defensively.

                      Nice try at salvaging that failed prediction.

                    • To be fair, Cole wouldn’t have beat Bumgarner either. The Pirates couldn’t do anything with him.

                    • I’ll take the over on that.

                    • lonleylibertarian
                      October 7, 2014 9:47 pm

                      I am sorry – I must be in alternate universe. In my universe the Pirates lost – and lost pretty badly the Wild Card game and are watching while the playoffs are proceeding without them. It has been like this for 35 years. You seem to be happy with how things turned out.

                      Steve – if this “make the wild card and horde prospects and not spend” strategy makes you happy/satisfied – God Bless. I want to win – I want to compete. I don’t want to financially support a guy who cares more about his skiing business than his baseball team.

                    • Well, I too would be happier if they were still playing. But I’d be sadder if it was another losing season. And I’d be even sadder if they wasted a bunch of money for years and were forced to move to Charlotte or something.

                      You’re here arguing that the owner can’t spend money the way he wants to. What kind of libertarian are you?

                    • lonleylibertarian
                      October 7, 2014 10:52 pm

                      I have said many times – here and elsewhere that the owner is free to do what he wants with his money – I really do not have a problem with that. I do have a problem with Huntington and others – including the guy who used to handle my now canceled season ticket account thinking I should continue to pay them when they are not putting more money into the team. They are free to pay down debt or do whatever they want. Just don’t try and tell me that they “are committed to winning”.

                    • Look, the majority of teams fail to make the postseason. Only two make the World Series and only one of them wins it. You’re free to assess the team’s commitment to winning by whatever metric you like, but nobody elected you the final arbiter of how to judge such things and if your only criteria is winning the World Series, you’ve got an impossibly high standard.

                      I prefer to view the building of a team that can win on a shoestring budget as a commitment to winning. If they’ve hit on that formula, it means the team will win games, will make the postseason, and– most importantly, in my opinion– will not be forced to spend more money than they have to buy players and then raise ticket prices to ridiculous levels or do some other stupid thing. As much as I want a winning team, I don’t want them to do so at the risk of its long-term future in Pittsburgh. Sooner or later, times will get tough for the team and attendance will fall off; I’d rather the team not be in such precarious shape when that happens that they’re forced to move.

                      For someone who doesn’t have a problem with the way Nutting spends his money, you’re awfully generous with the criticism about it.

                    • The Dodgers and Nationals played 4 more games than the Pirates,the Angels three. BFD with the money they spend ! But you think the Pirates need to adopt their philosophies ?

                    • lonleylibertarian
                      October 8, 2014 10:44 am

                      I guess I am not being clear – let’s try it this way….

                      1. I have NEVER advocated spending more just for the sake of spending more.
                      2. Nutting – and I – are free to spend our money any way we want. We moved back to Pittsburgh in 2011 in time to witness epic collapse 1 – I went to about a dozen games and even took a family group to a game in a luxury box. I then bought a 20 game package-2 tickets in the PBC Section and watched in person epic collapse II. I continued to attend games – buy overpriced food and a couple of hundred $ in pirate merchandise through the 2013 season – including the Cueto game and playoffs.
                      3. All the time I listened to management and media whine about the lack of fan support and the need for more fan support BEFORE there could be a larger payroll.
                      4. I was optimistic when I renewed my 20 game plan for 2014. Season ticket sales were up – fan support was about as high as it could be. NOW we would see the BMTIB do its part. I said last off season here and elsewhere that fans who had supported the Bucs through the bad and now the good were entitled to expect a response…
                      5. What did I get for my investment.
                      1st I hear the GM say they could not afford to make the QO to the pitcher who played a HUGE role in ending 20 years of losing – a guy who was a leader and most fans loved.
                      2nd I am being told that a guy who failed not onc but twice in 2012 would be getting $5 M a year and that he would be joining the rotation-i was not alone in seeing visions of Jonathan Sanchez II and EV did nothing during spring traing to make us think otherwise.
                      3rd I get to watch the team send to AAA for financial reasons a young outfield prospect who had a great Spring and witness a horrible April with Tabata and snider stinking up right field.
                      4th the GM finally trades for a new 1st baseman who he brazenly tells us is the long term solution to 1st base.

                      There was more – but you get my point. No investment from you – no financial support from me – sold my tickets on stub hub and watched the games from the comfort of my family room – beer was a heck of a lot cheaper – and colder

                    • I am not going to get into the details of your financial boycott, and I won’t be snarky or dismissive. BUT, a huge word on our language, both from my viewpoint and the final performance record, your criticisms of the player development and roster construction are totally wrong headed.

                    • lonleylibertarian
                      October 8, 2014 12:53 pm

                      Thanks Leo – appreciate the lack of snark.

                      I know i am pretty much alone in my POV – I know a LOT of people are OK with the approach the FO has taken.

                      PNC Park is a great place to watch a game – and the experience is a lot better now that the team is winning more than it is losing. The ticket prices are pretty reasonable and the food and beverage price are higher at other parks – or so I have heard.

                      I just don’t think that you can be competitive in the NL Central with a payroll that will be $30 M or so less than the other four teams in the division – I hope I am wrong.

                    • I also think you have to be in the $ 100 million payroll range also LL. But, where I disagree with you is on the constant harping on the Burnette situation

                    • lonleylibertarian
                      October 8, 2014 2:18 pm

                      Fair enough – I get annoyed when some suggest that trading Brian Morris or Grilli were bad choices. Both managed to turn their years around after pitching there way out of town.

                      I just think the FO missed a huge opportunity to send a message – a message that we are totally committed to winning by not making the QO – and I admit to be a huge fan of AJ.

                    • Only way to win the division is to BEAT CARDS MORE AT BUSH
                      And get pitching back to 2013

      • I’m not going to stick my neck into the Frank Coonley debate…but the Pirates did finish in the $80-82M range and were willing to take on AJ at $12M and were willing to add payroll at the deadline. Maybe if they had added AJ other moves would’ve been different, but I don’t see much that could’ve changed in-season. Obviously, Volquez probably might not have been in the equation (although they had interest in AJ even after signing EV)…but that would bring the payroll around $90. Increased revenues from attendance, plus the TV money will be there as well (the money hadn’t actually made it into the bank from National TV revenues prior to the season). So, yes, I think a payroll in the $90s is warranted/plausible.

        • Saying it’s “warranted/plausible” is not the same thing as “zero reason” for it not to be. That’s my issue.

      • Cincinnati and Milwaukee.

        • How’d their seasons turn out again?

          • lonleylibertarian
            October 7, 2014 9:50 pm

            They played one less game than the Pirates – tell me how much better I should feel about that.

            • They also won a lot more games than those teams and spent a lot less money to do so. Feel however you want. The point is that just because Cincy and Milwaukee are spending a ton of money doesn’t mean that spending a ton of money is a good idea.

              • Cinci is also financially strapped moving forward BECAUSE of some of their long term contracts to Votto, Phillips, and Bailey.

          • Irrelevant to the point that similar attendance and size of the city proves the Pirates can afford $100mil.

            • First off: just because Milwaukee and Cincy have similar populations and attendance doesn’t mean that the Pirates can afford to have a similar payroll. I’m guessing there’s about a dozen things that make up a baseball team’s sources of revenue and at least that many that make up their expenditures. Unless those things are also similar, the attendance and population similarities mean nothing.

              Second, even if it is irrelevant to the affordability of the payroll, it’s completely relevant to whether or not it’s a good idea to have a $100 million payroll and/or whether those teams are spending their $100 million payroll wisely.

  • Tim, how long do the Pirates have to make a decision on Martin, I thought they had a little time to sign him before he became available to all the rest of the teams. I would think that any dealing they do would have to wait until the Martin case is decided.

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