Breaking Down the Pirates’ 2022 Opening Day Payroll

After a long, trying offseason, we’re finally here, Opening Day.

I know, I know, it’s not actually Opening Day, but humor me here.

To be honest, coverage of the lockout was really starting to wear me down—I never even recapped where the final agreement settled (at this point, I’m waiting to see the official agreement before attempting to recap in full)—and it was nice to just take a little break. Also, for multiple reasons, the payroll has been in flux since the very beginning of the season.

With two last-minute major league signings, an arbitration battle turned early season contract extension, the largest guaranteed deal in team history, and trying to slowly compile minimum salaries that haven’t been reported yet, I’ve changed just my Opening Day figure several times already, and the season isn’t even two weeks in yet.

That’s obviously not normal operating procedure, but my goal is simply to report the best figure I can, not only for myself, but for those of you who care enough to follow along with me. This number will still likely change (if the AP or USA Today would ever do their part), but I think I’m comfortable enough to present something before we get too deep into the season.

For a more in-depth, line-by-line breakdown, check out (and save) my payroll tracker that I’ll keep updated throughout the season.

Guaranteed Salaries: $55,763,600

With his new eight-year contract taking effect this season, Ke’Bryan Hayes becomes the team’s most recent $10 million player, with only Gregory Polanco reaching in 2021, while no one crossed that mark in 2020. While he didn’t start the season that way, Bryan Reynolds is now the second-highest paid player on the team at $6.75 million.

That’s obviously the largest chunk of the figure, with the rest mostly being made up of minimum salaries. Remember, after the new CBA, there was a significant jump in the minimum—from $570,500 to $700,000—so this number is padded from prior seasons, and at least needs to be considered when making historical comparisons.

Two further variables play into a higher number—two extra roster spots to open the season, as well as injuries. The team not only had to pay two additional players the minimum to open but are also paying higher salaries to four additional players on the 10-day IL, not to mention the three players on the 60-day IL and their replacements on the reserve list.

In total, this factors in two long-term contracts, seven free agent contracts, three deals to avoid arbitration, and twenty-three renewals.

Minor League Salary: $1,352,500

This is the total allocated for players not on the active roster, with twelve players accounting for the total. Four of them, however, are not on the Reserve List at the moment.

Michael Perez was outrighted back in November before the tender deadline; however, he was outrighted after the date on which he would have otherwise become a minor league free agent, so he had to be offered a contract for 2022, which he signed. Therefore, his minor league split is currently being counted against the payroll.

Two players who were outrighted after the tender deadline—Jared Oliva and Eric Hanhold—are also included here, as well as Adonis Medina, who was traded after being designated for assignment before the season started.

Much like minimum salaries, this figure will be higher than in the past, as minor league minimums received a nice hike in 2022, from $46,600 and $93,000 to $57,200 and $114,100, respectively.

Signing Bonuses: $0

None of the deals the Pirates signed this offseason came with signing bonuses, so nothing to report here.

Option Buyouts: $3,000,000

Here’s a big change I’m making for this season from how I’ve calculated payroll since I started doing this in 2018.

I always prorated a contract buyout over the life of a deal, as the CBA states a buyout is to be treated like a signing bonus, and that’s what happens to signing bonuses.

Well, as it turns out, teams calculate and report two different payrolls, and buyouts are actually treated differently in both calculations. The calculation I’m presenting here is intended to more accurately reflect yearly expense, which is like the payroll teams report in which buyouts are allocated to the year they are covering, not amortized over the life of a deal.

Therefore, Gregory Polanco is on the payroll for $3 million this year, while Ke’Bryan Hayes and Daniel Vogelbach at $750,000 and $200,000 are not.

I apologize for all the years I’ve done it incorrectly, but it’s better to admit that and correct moving forward than continue doing it wrong.

2022 Payroll Projection: $60,116,100

In addition to the figure above, I calculated the Collective Balance Tax payroll—just as teams have both—which started at $73,732,767. This includes an estimated $16 million in player benefits, as well as the Pirates’ $1.67 million share of the newly minted pre-arbitration bonus pool.

You can find these totals in the payroll spreadsheets as well, and I will be tracking both of these figures as the season goes.

A longtime Pirates Prospects reader, Ethan has been covering payroll, transactions, and rules in-depth since 2018 and dabbling in these topics for as long as he can remember. He started writing about the Pirates at The Point of Pittsburgh before moving over to Pirates Prospects at the start of the 2019 season.

Always a lover of numbers and finding an answer, Ethan much prefers diving into these topics over what’s actually happening on the field. These under and often incorrectly covered topics are truly his passion, and he does his best to educate fans on subjects they may not always understand, but are important nonetheless.

When he’s not updating his beloved spreadsheets, Ethan works full-time as an accountant, while being a dad to two young daughters and watching too many movies and TV shows at night.

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