I was going to write about Russell Martin tonight, and more specifically, how the Pittsburgh Pirates can easily afford Martin in the future. I detailed the short-term of this subject earlier in the week, noting that there is plenty of room on the 2015 payroll to sign Martin. But what about beyond that?

One thing that is going to help the Pirates keep their payroll low in future years will be their top ranked farm system. That system projects to graduate the following players over the next two years.

2015 – Jameson Taillon (RHP), Nick Kingham (RHP), Adrian Sampson (RHP), Alen Hanson (2B)

2016 – Tyler Glasnow (RHP), Josh Bell (1B)

The Pirates already have some young players on their current roster who have graduated to the majors recently. A quick look at a possible 2017 Opening Day lineup shows that they could have a very young core if a lot of the above options work out. And for the purposes of getting an idea of how they could afford Martin, let’s include him in this projection.

C – Russell Martin

1B – Josh Bell

2B – Alen Hanson

SS – Jordy Mercer

3B – Josh Harrison

LF – Starling Marte

CF – Andrew McCutchen

RF – Gregory Polanco

 

SP – Gerrit Cole

SP – Tyler Glasnow

SP – Jameson Taillon

SP – Nick Kingham

SP – Adrian Sampson/Vance Worley/Brandon Cumpton

Seven of those 12 positions (not counting the catching position) are league minimum guys. The guaranteed contracts are currently at $19 M, along with potential buyouts for Charlie Morton and/or Jose Tabata. The price would go up if Morton returned. The biggest unknown expenses would be Jordy Mercer’s second year of arbitration, Josh Harrison’s third year, and Gerrit Cole’s first year.

In my 2015 projection, the Pirates had $23 M in guaranteed money, which is about $2 M more than the 2017 estimate with the buyouts. The 2015 team also has huge arbitration raises at first base, second base, and a smaller case in the rotation. I currently have those positions projected to add another $19 M. That doesn’t include the fact that the Pirates would need two members of the rotation from free agency or a trade, which should boost the overall figure by at least $10-15 M.

Let’s just go conservative and say the total is an extra $10 M for the rotation. That puts the 2015 lineup and rotation at least to $52 M before the addition of Martin. That 2017 estimate has the Pirates at $20.25 M, along with those three arbitration raises to Mercer, Harrison, and Cole. And I highly doubt that those three arbitration prices will combine for $32 M.

In short, the Pirates have a lot of good talent coming up in the minors, and if most of that talent works out, they’ll be in a much better financial position to afford a big contract to Martin in future years, as opposed to the first year. So while the short-term estimates say that they can afford to add Martin, the long-term estimates show them easily being able to afford him.

The other Martin-related topic today was the Baltimore Orioles’ extension of J.J. Hardy. I heard about the news over Twitter, when someone asked me why the Pirates didn’t think of this to extend Martin before he reaches free agency.

The fact that Martin hasn’t signed an extension yet doesn’t mean that they haven’t approached him. Whether they have or not, it probably wouldn’t matter. In Martin’s first interview with the Pittsburgh media right after signing, he talked about how the Pirates offered him a third year, but he opted for two years, hoping to rebuild some value and get back on the free agent market quicker. He has definitely rebuilt his value. And if he was intending to re-enter the market two years ago, then there’s no reason for him to abandon that plan with two weeks to go.

I don’t know why Hardy signed his extension when he did. I don’t know the entire situation surrounding his stay with the Orioles, and what his intentions were. What I do know is that it makes total sense for the Pirates to try and get Martin to sign the same extension. But that “it takes two to make a deal” thing still applies, and Martin has been planning on free agency this off-season since the day he signed with the Pirates. This doesn’t seem like a Hardy situation. But that doesn’t mean the Pirates can’t try to go after him when he is a free agent. As shown above, they’ve got the money in the budget for the next few years.

Links and Notes

**Winter Leagues: Opening Night in Venezuelan League

**AFL: Dan Gamache Homers in One-Sided Loss

**Jose Tabata Outrighted to Indianapolis

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92 COMMENTS

  1. Just a side thought; this site is so great, and will help me get thru the off-season. Thank you guys, especially to Tim and staff.

  2. Count me among those that are still a little hesitant to be counting on Josh Harrison after one breakout season. I think he deserves to start next year, for sure, and I hope he plays like he did this year. Projecting him as third baseman in 2017 makes me nervous in an otherwise potent looking lineup and rotation.

  3. I don’t follow all the arguing up thread, fairly simple article/post. Essentially the Pirates actually have prospects in the top 100 range that could fill their positions of need thus a longer term contract to Martin isn’t likely come at the expense of other areas.

    Compare this to the say the Reds and Shin-Soo Choo, last year, they have several very important players reaching the end of their contracts and don’t have much top line talent to fill the holes. Pirate situation is closer to the Cardinals, they have a lot of cost controlled talent so a $54 million dollar contract to Peralta is more feasible.

  4. If we don’t resign Martin, how much would it take to get Gattis. It seems like he is blocked in every position he plays with the Braves. If he hit over 20 HRs playing part time in Atlanta, how many would he hit in Pittsburgh. His def stats look ok also. He’ll be above average at pitch framing and throwing runners out. My only reservation is that he is young and it seems the Bucs need a vetern with such a young pitching staff.

  5. IMO, Martin is a very good catcher, however he is not God, he was arguably the 4th best catcher in the division, he can be replaced, it looks to me like the media and fans have built him up to the point that no one else will ever be able to take his place, If I were Stewart or Sanchez I would run away as fast as I can, I would not want to have to replace the legend, every time someone steals a base, every time a pitcher gets hit, every time they lose, it is going to fall on the new catcher, if we had Martin it would not have happened, not to mention the stats Martin will have with his new team being part of our daily reading.

    • The 4th best catcher in the division? I don’t think drinking this early in the morning should be encouraged. I guess you found the Rod Barajas era acceptable. I enjoyed having a great catcher, the Pirates hadn’t had one since Tony Pena. You let me know what is available to replace Martin with. I’m sure Barajas would leave retirement for another paycheck.

      • Lucroy, Molina and Mesoraco. You can make a case that all are/were/or will be better than Martin. I agree that it doesn’t mean Martin was not very good, nor does mean much when it comes to the Pirates, per se, and who they might replace him with, but the statement “[Martin] was arguably the 4th best catcher in the division” is not a sign of insobriety.

        • I was surely not drinking I was simply looking at the 3 catchers in the division that I think if I had a shot at that I would take anyone of them over Martin. That is no way signifies that I think Martin is some kind of stiff, he had a career year this year, but his track record shows that what he did this year is not likely sustainable. Do the Pirates want to pay him for this years production instead of the next three years production?

            • There is no offer to take any of those other catchers from any of the other teams, so let’s not go there. Molina? Sure, I can say he’s definitively better than Martin. But Lucroy and Mesoraco? Based on one season? Based on playing in band box stadiums that inflate everyone’s offensive stats? How about based on how they catch the ball and control the running game? Better than Martin? No way. Molina is older than Martin, and is in decline mode. Mesoraco has played one season of 100 games as a catcher, hardly a proven commodity. Lucroy certainly a better hitter, both him and Mesoraco are below the paltry league average in CS, both threw out 26%, league average 28%. Martin was 40% last year, 39% this year. Molina almost throws out 50% every year. Unless the Pirates can get a COMPARABLE catcher to Martin, they need to do everything they can to keep him.

              Which means more than lip service. If he insists on the absolute highest dollar, he won’t sign here. But make the effort, because plan B cannot be the crap we have left here.

        • This year, there is no chance anyone outside of Cardinal fans see Molina as being better than Martin. And Mesoraco is in the same class of all hitting and no defense catcher as Evan Gattis, get real. Lucroy is the one player whose overall game and youth may give him the edge because his offense has been better, but not really better than martin was at Lucroy’s age, and so…..I can see how “homers” from each town could think their catcher is better than Martin, there is no intelligent WAR, Runs saved, or individual player league wide or coaching staff who unbiased would agree with that. There just isn’t anything to back it up based on 2014 performance

      • The fact that some team with a ton of money to spend (Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox to name 3) that are desperate for a catcher will throw a ton of money at him. Not to mention the fact the Pirates have never once showed the willingness to give a guy the 14 or 15 million a year that’ll be needed to keep him around.

        • Sure, I wouldn’t be surprised if some team threw a bunch of money at him and we didn’t match, but I don’t see how the situation has changed at all. That is/was/always will be the case.

        • those arent facts Marty, those are projections, based on elements of logic, but those conclusions aren’t themselves facts. And not sure how to break down the statement “Pirates have never once shown the willingness to give a guy the 14 or 15 million”…. what does ‘shown the willingness’ mean? Public statements from all relevant executives, including the owner, indicate the Pirates are prepared to offer ‘beyond what they ever would’ve considered’. Given they offered AJ $12M or so, not a huge leap to assume this is ‘showing the willingess’ for $14 or $15M.

          • There’s a difference between what the BMTIB says they’re going to do, and what they will actually do. Until otherwise happens, there is no reason to believe they’ll pay that kind of money for any player. Sure, it’s just an assumption that a team desperate for catching help will throw a ton of money at Russ. But it’s a very safe assumption to make.

            • “Until otherwise happens, there is no reason to believe…”

              The same thing was said about locking up a star player to a long term extension. That kind of reasoning just guarantees that you will be wrong and therefore it is only a matter of whether you will be wrong sooner or later.

            • ok, fair enough. I think there are reasons to believe they will make a significant offer to Martin, but you will remain skeptical. Fair enough. Those are your opinions. Not facts. If I had to wager on what will happen it is : (1) Pirates present QO, Russ declines it (2) Pirates offer 4 yrs, $60M – $62M (3) Who knows after that. It could very well be that a team will add a 5th year and/or more $$ to that base offer. It could be that there won’t be anything significantly better than 4/$60. Russ would go with the biggest dollar or he could take the Bucs offer, even if slightly (not more than slightly) less than another spot, depending on where that is. But I don’t think it logical at all (my opinion) that 1) and 2) won’t happen.

              • I agree on the QO, the contract offer who knows. I just hope that after he walks they A) bring in another catcher to go with Chris Stewart. Tony Sanchez can’t be a viable catching option, they’re in big trouble if he is. B) they go out and add SP this offseason. They have gaping holes in the rotation right now. That needs addressed.

          • I have no doubt the buccos will offer martin $15m.. It’s the 4/5 year part they won’t offer. Similar to them not offering your aj 2 years

        • I could easily see Martin getting 5/$75M based upon the deals catchers have gotten recently. Sadly, the $15M is the least of the problems for the Pirates, it is most likely the 5th year that prevents a deal getting done. The Dodgers will throw him the 5th year and be out of the playoffs early with a $756M payroll in 2018.

    • Yup, let’s just totally ignore only about half these guys hit and pretend adding via trade and free agency is not needed.

      • Why is hitting a focus? They have Mercer, Harrison, Marte, Cutch, and Polanco under contract, not to mention Martin in this scenario. You only need two more hitters, and they’ve got those two positions in the minors.

          • For the sake of speculation, it is easier to project a long term outlook based on the players you have in the system than it is to try to imagine which players will hit free agency that match the Pirates needs/price and/or which teams will be sellers years from now. You are not wrong to suggest that every prospect won’t pan out, or that free agency and trades may be needed/helpful, it is just hard to speculate on which guys won’t make it and how those holes will be filled with unknown players – it is trying to solving unknown problems with unknown solutions. To that end, I think it is fair to assume that given the propensity for pitcher injuries and the Pirates recent history in the free agent/trade market that at least one of those pitching spots won’t be a prospect, but will rather go to another $5-10 million dollar reclamation project.

        • Jordy Mercer isn’t a league average hitter right now, let alone in three years, and nobody should expect Martin to be one by then either. Even assuming Harrison and Polanco are successful, you’re still replacing Neil Walker’s bat with Alen Hanson. First base is the only place you can reasonably expect more production, and that’s still loaded with risk.

          It is completely reasonable to question how good that projected offense would actually be.

          • Mercer: .299 wOBA, 91 wRC+
            League Average SS: .297, 87

            That’s with Mercer struggling the first two months of his first full season.

            Also, are we just going to disregard defensive value for guys like Mercer and Martin?

            • “Also, are we just going to disregard defensive value for guys like Mercer and Martin?”

              Well, yes, since the conversation was about offense.

                  • Ok, well 1) you were wrong – Mercer is the definition of a league average hitter and 2) the question was rhetorical, so let me phrase it as a statement: It is stupid to talk only about offense and ignore defensive contributions from position player. Now, you could say “Jordy Mercer: what defensive contributions?” But that would be a different discussion

                    • League average shortstop. I didn’t define the position. I said league average.

                      Next time anyone talks about offense, I’ll be sure to tell them they’re stupid. Thanks!

                    • I didn’t say it was stupid to talk about offense, I said it was stupid to ignore defense.
                      There are very few SS that will grade out as a league average or better hitter. There are 8, not counting Tulo who didn’t qualify. Call it 9. And of those nine, four were essentially league average wRC+ of 102 or 101, leaving only Hanley, Peralta, Castro, and Desmond, as above average hitters. To be fair there were a couple of guys with a wRC+ of 97 which is essentially league average. So you could say there were roughly 10 SS who league average hitters including 4 above average. The rest of the SS in the league were below average hitters. Why? There is a reason that those 20 teams don’t just put a better hitter at SS. Ignoring defense, the Pirates should have just put Travis Snider at SS, no? Snider’s .343. wOBA, 120 wRC+ is certainly better than Mercer: .299 wOBA, 91 wRC+.

                    • NMR: David Ortiz cannot play shortstop. The fact that Mercer is above average on every metric at the shortstop position, including offense, means he is quite valuable. Have fun playing MLB the show with Big Papi at short.

            • Jordy Mercer can’t hit RHP, well below average against RHP. Unfortunately, you face a lot more RHPs than LHPs.

              • …and then when all of the stats were combined over the course of the season, he came out to be an average MLB shortstop. The fact that you face more RHP is accounted for in the overall stats

                  • Way to change the argument. You said Jordy Mercer isn’t a league average hitter…and as the numbers show, he clearly is. End of story.

                    • Wait, how was I the one who changed the argument? I started the argument. Others inserted the position-specific analysis.

                      Go back and read.

            • We probably could for martin in 2017.. maybe not for the 80 games he’s able to play catcher.. maybe by 2017 the nl has a dh and he continues to hit for power.

      • Do you not see the projected lineup you penciled in above?

        “That puts the 2015 lineup and rotation at least to $52 M before the addition of Martin. That 2017 estimate has the Pirates at $20.25 M, along with those three arbitration raises to Mercer, Harrison, and Cole. And I highly doubt that those three arbitration prices will combine for $32 M.”

        So then assuming not all of the prospects you projected actually do work out, what does that 2017 estimate look like? Reasonably expect $18-20m for those three arb players you listed and arb-3 for Vance Worley plus a FA/trade in the rotation easily could take up another $10m. There’s pretty darn close to your $32m for 2015, and that’s still assuming Alen Hanson and Josh Bell are successful pieces in the lineup.

        • Can you show me where I said “All the Prospects Work Out”?

          Or do you want to have a totally different conversation trying to guess at the exact figures if specific prospects don’t work out?

          • So then what exactly did your article show?

            That it’s possible for the Pirates to afford Russell Martin three years from now? Of course it’s possible to afford Russell Martin three years from now. I was giving you, and all your readers, the benefit of the doubt that it is easily understood a team with an $80m+ payroll can afford a guy making $15m or so.

            The question with any sort of analysis needed is whether or not the Pirates can afford Russell Martin three years from now while fielding a championship caliber team around him. And yes, that is where even making an attempt to quantify how much would need spent if prospects DON’T work out is necessary. Make an attempt. That entire article couldn’t have taken more than 20 minutes.

            • Well, for one thing it shows that one of the advantages of maintaining a strong farm system – as opposed to trading all of your prospects for rental players – is that it can keep your the money locked up in guaranteed contracts low thereby giving you financial flexibility in future seasons.

              How could anyone know “how much would need to be spent if prospects DON’T work out” when nobody know which prospects aren’t working out, what the free agent market will look like (what players will be available and what going rate is), or what teams will be trading what players when and for how much? It is too many unknowns to be able to address with any confidence. At least in this case, the prospect/players above may not be any good, but you know that the Pirates will have (them under contract and field a baseball team at a known price (relatively know) and based on those “knowns” you can say with a reasonable degree of confidence that the Pirates could afford player X at price Y assuming a payroll of Z.

              • Locking up guaranteed contracts absolutely does not give you financial flexibility. Quite the opposite, actually.

                And in 2017, the Pirates will have two – TWO – guaranteed contracts.

                • Isn’t that what I said?

                  “…it can keep your the money locked up in guaranteed contracts low thereby giving you financial flexibility..”

                  • OK, now we’re on the same page.

                    Back to the original topic, you’re certainly correct that we don’t know which prospects will work out and how much filling their position would cost.

                    But doesn’t that in itself undermine the ability to state that the Pirates can afford Martin while still fielding a championship level team? You’re not even curious as to what the financial implications MAY look like? Not even worth an estimate?

                    Look, you can absolutely bet that Huntington & Co are completing this same exact exercise and they’re sure as hell putting more thought into it than this. That’s a discussion I find interesting, and was hoping Tim would as well.

                    • Expecting the daily content of a free blog to have the same depth and scope as the full-time-job-responsibility of highly compensated management team of a multi-million dollar organization is asking a little much, no? Some back of napkin calculations and noting that “them money should be there” is a reasonable thing to say when there is a whole site devoted to prospects at all levels of the system and therefore all kinds of other free content to produce. If you don’t like it, you are free to start your own website and run all of the numbers you want. Or, just do the calculations that you want to see yourself, instead of complaining that somebody else isn’t doing it for you.

                    • Come on, man. You know that’s not what I said.

                      If you don’t feel an attempt – any attempt at all – to account for the potential of prospects not working out is needed, that’s your prerogative.

            • I give my readers a lot of credit that they can take the information I provided here, and come up with their own simulations. This is a rough estimate. If you want to project beyond that, have at it. But that’s kind of foolish, for the reasons pointed out below.

              The point here is that the Pirates have a lot of top prospects in the upper levels, ready to make the jump to the majors. That’s going to leave them with a lot of players making the league minimum, giving them much more flexability in 2017 than 2015. I don’t think I need to spell it out that this means they’d be able to afford Martin AND free agents to cover for any prospects that didn’t work out.

              • Right, Tim. Key point was made… the Pirates have a fairly projectionable collection of inexpensive players, with the HUGE KEYS being Cutch, Marte and Polanco. If those three are all performing, and I’d have to say odds are better than not on that, then the complementary pieces can either be lower cost young prospects OR complementary low to mid range FAs. The high value, low cost outfield and starting rotation is the fuel to the competiive fire.

                • High value, low cost outfield, sure. But rotation? Gerrit Cole, Vance Worley, and three guys who have thrown the equivalent of one full season above AA?

                  You’re comfortable just assuming that’s gonna work out?

              • Of course not all prospects pan out, but your first sentence in the second paragraph is key: all of the prospects penciled in above are in the upper levels of the minor leagues, which translates to a much higher success rate than those in A ball. By attrition, its reasonably that one of those pitchers won’t work out (i.e., maybe Glasnow never develops the necessary control – but then you have a lights out closer. Not the end of the world).

                Bell is going to start the year in AA and Hanson in AAA, and those are the only position players from the minors listed, so its not really far out there to think they will be contributing the big league club in 2017.

              • How much is the cost of covering one failed prospect? Covering for tony sanchez is costing $15m for 4 years..

            • Wow. First, there is no speculation that can take place where anyone will know ifprospect a or b will work out. At this point it is speculation. If someone doesn’t work out, adjustments will be necessary. That bridge can’t be crossed until the time comes.

              who cares how long the article took him? Did you pay anything to read it? Tim provides a nice outlet to read Pirate related content. As an out of town fan, I appreciate the effort.

              • “If someone doesn’t work out, adjustments will be necessary. That bridge can’t be crossed until the time comes.”

                Again, this is the crux of the entire question. Of course the Pirates can afford Russell Martin. The Pirate could afford Andrew McCutchen’s next contract, too.

                The question is whether or not the organization can be reasonably confident that they’ll be able to form a championship level team around them. In order to answer that question, you have to make assumptions. Penciling in any of those prospects in the first place is speculating. Yes, some will work out. Yes, some won’t work out.

                You can’t answer the question of whether or not the Pirates would be able to afford Martin unless you at least attempt to estimate the unknown. You just can’t.

    • Considering 2-3 pitching prospects are currently in AAA or were at the AAA level and now injured, yeah its a bit likely you see them in the bigs. The rotation he put out is in no way crazy to think. 4 of those guys are either at the AAA level or in the bigs, and even if you take the side of “AAA guys dont all become ML usable pitchers” it still shows a high degree of likelihood they have 4 SP from inside the system since Cole is established. The only way you can seriously take the approach that this is folly is if you assume the worst case for most of these prospects. Being reasonable, you get Taillon as at least a back end to mid rotation arm, Kingham as a decent 4-5 option, Sampson as a 5 guy/depth option and the only true unknown in Glasnow being a potential mid rotation arm.

  6. Tim: I truly doubt that what Russell Martin said two years ago before playing his first game in Pittsburgh should have much cred. And, like Martin in Pittsburgh, JJ Hardy found a home in B’more with a team that is built to win now and in the future – why be the Stephen Drew of 2014? He has been very productive, but that contract is for his age 33-35 years. If the O’s would have put the QO on him after 2014, how many other teams would have been interested in paying the money, the years, and the Draft Pick?

    It is my hope that Martin comes to the same realization within the next three weeks. It happened to two very successful players last year – no clubs willing to take on the years and money and give up a a first round draft pick in the process in order to pick up position players already in their early 30’s. Make a generous-but-reasonable offer; if that is or has not been accepted, extend the QO and wait for his decision.

    If we need to find a place for $60+ mil a year, add $50 mil more and try to extend Andrew McCutchen through his age 35 season.

    • There’s no doubt Martin enjoys playing in the Burgh. But there’s no chance that he signs before he sees what’s out there. Pirates will try their best to sign him in FA & I have no doubt they will QO him.
      I know this will be unpopular but there’s also no reason to extend Cutch now. By the time this contract is up he may be the 4th best OF on the team. Patience is needed however unpopular as it is.

      • 4th best outfielder? By 2018 he’s 27 now look at what Bautista did this past year and Martinez. I disagree with that statement

          • He is still a young man and his last 3 years have probably been Top 5 in the majors for production. 2015 will be his age 28 season; 2016 will be his age 29 season; and 2017 will be his age 30 season. We do have a cheap team option for 2018 for $14.5 mil. My thought is to upgrade that team option to around $18 mil and go up from there for his age 32 and 33 seasons leveling out at 34 and coming back down a little each of his age 35 and age 36 seasons. You want a team option at 37, fine. This kid has kept himself tuned and is in fantastic shape – hitting for average, and increasing power while still being a burner on the bases and playing one of the most demanding positions in baseball. If ever there was a player to sign long term, he is the man. The Pirates need to show they WANT to sign their own – from draft to the end of their careers. It is impossible for us to imagine how much he has done for the Pirate Trademark, and the popularity of the Franchise.

        • I didn’t say he would be. I said he could be. Marte & Polonco both have better tools then Cutch at same age. They’re both superior defensively now. Marte looks like things are starting to click for him. I also believe Polonco is going to be a star. Then there’s a stable of OF prospects like Meadows. You just don’t know who’s going to be better in 3 years let alone 4

    • If Russ having a CLEAR strategy for his future should be given little cred, so should the notion that his 2 years his will impact his decision process in a large way. Both have impacts on him. His longterm plan was to take a 1-2 year deal and max his value for 1 last paycheck. He did that perfectly and would be dumb to take much less than top value. One can also realize he may take a oh so slight decrease in pay if he thinks PIT is where he wants to end his career. Either way, he will want very good value.

      • LS: I agree that he had that plan when he came to the Pirates, but I doubt that even he could have imagined having two years like he has had. His CS% has averaged 39% in Pittsburgh, although his CS% for his ML career is 32% even with the two high years in Pittsburgh included. And, he has not seen anywhere near .290 for a batting average since 7 or 8 years ago with the Dodgers. IMO, he should give more cred to the fact that he has found a place where he has succeeded beyond expectations, is well liked and appreciated by the players and fans, and is part of a playoff contender. But, getting inside another person’s head is not my business.

        Something came out late last night that the Pirates had made an offer that Martin has turned down and is committed to Free Agency. Thanks for the memories.

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