How Could the Pirates Get to a $100M Payroll in 2023?

After laying a baseline for the 2023 payroll last week, as promised, I am going to look at how the team could spend their way to $100 million next season.

As I’m about to illustrate, it’s a tall task, thus an extremely unlikely one. I’m going to try and at least be realistic—no Jacob deGrom or Aaron Judge signings here—while also trying to avoid marrying myself to certain names. I say that because I’m not great with statistical breakdowns, and while someone may have a recognizable name, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re always the best choice.

It also bears mentioning that we don’t exactly know what the market will look like this offseason. Historically, teams have been more willing to spend coming out of new labor deals, with the foreseeable future locked down; however, I’m not sure we can use last offseason as a good barometer either, as teams were throwing money around, in part, simply so they could say they were. Will spending come down? It’s yet to be seen, but I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if it did.

While saying all that, we still have to acknowledge that this would take A LOT of work to become a reality, so actual signings would need to take place. This isn’t something we’re accustomed to as followers of the Pittsburgh Pirates, so all of it is going to look foreign. However, jumping from $40 million to $100 million in one offseason would be just that, so it’s going to feel ludicrous or uncomfortable, no matter what.

With the qualifiers out of the way, let’s get going.

Sign Joey Gallo to a one-year, prove it deal

Gallo hasn’t exactly been his normal self since leaving Texas, so I’m imagining the Pirates giving him the opportunity to prove that he’s still one of the premiere power threats in the game. Given that this would be a one-year deal and he would need some convincing to bounce back in Pittsburgh—an assumption for the rest of the way—I’m picturing this being at least in the $20 million range, much like Noah Syndergaard to the Los Angeles Angels last offseason.

Bring Gallo in and let him mash for a team that is in need of offense. I considered letting him do that at designated hitter, but Gallo has proven to be good enough in the field in the past that I’ll let him take a spot in the corner outfield for now. No two of the many prospects given the opportunity have taken hold of the corners at this point, and the reason of this exercise is to see the Pirates get better, so this stopgap isn’t really holding anyone back.

As for DH, I decided to fill that opening with…

Sign Trey Mancini

Familiar with rebuilds, Mancini could provide the team with solid veteran leadership, while hopefully producing with a solid bat in the process. Let him play some first too, but this is largely to fill the DH spot.

I slotted him in with an $8 million salary—for the most part, I’m avoiding naming specific terms (years and totals) for deals, as I’m not trying to be Nostradamus here—which seems reasonable for a veteran, corner bat.

Fortify the pitching staff

This needs to happen whether the Pirates plan on hitting $100 million or not, but I was able to go hog wild here, as there was lots of room to spend.

I started with a pitcher they could (hopefully) place at the front of the staff, and I projected that costing $10 million to start. I know that’s not going to get top-of-the-market performance, but I am hoping it would secure one of the better pitchers available: Sean Manaea, Luis Severino, Michael Wacha, Taijuan Walker, Martín Pérez, Zach Eflin, Dylan Bundy, or Mike Clevinger.

When I reached the end of my projecting, I was still short, so I added another $5 million pitcher to the group. Maybe that’s a signing, maybe it’s a trade, but whatever it is, this team needs pitching, so adding arms to the pool isn’t going to hurt.

I then slotted in two bullpen signings starting at $7 and $5 million. Seven million seems reasonable for a better option on the market—there are just too many names, so don’t ask me to give you one—that could slot in next to a (hopefully) healthy and fresh David Bednar as an option in leverage situations.

Bring back Roberto Pérez

This isn’t necessarily me speaking—I looked at catching options, including Mike Zunino and Gary Sánchez, but the writing seems to be on the wall for a Pérez return, so I figured I would just go with that. I gave him $3 million, which seems fair after an injury shortened season.

Extend Oneil Cruz

Is this something the Pirates actually do? Who knows, but in an effort to pump up the payroll, it’s not all going to be spent externally. Comparable deals (Julio Rodríguez, Michael Harris II to name two) started in the $4-5 million range, so I assigned Cruz a $5 million 2023 salary.

You could save this slot for Bednar or Roansy Contreras, but I just decided to go with Cruz.

Grand Total: $100,184,864

On the flip side, some names had to go in order to find room for all these new players, as will happen. Zack Collins, Bryse Wilson, Yohan Ramirez, Jeremy Beasley, Manny Bañuelos, Peter Solomon, Miguel Yajure: many Pirate fans have grown accustomed to finding reasons to cling to names like this, and while they range in usefulness, the point is to find better players than the ones they have. If that happens, the desire would be that hope can stop being sold in favor of actual progress and production. Of course, that’s never a given, but it’s certainly worth a try.

Obviously, this just ekes us over the desired threshold, so there is even more room to go nuts, if they so choose. This was a lot of action though, so any fan would be happy to see such activity from the Pirates. It would certainly be different and refreshing for many.

Pirates Payroll Updates

—After being designated for assignment last week, Cam Vieaux and Josh VanMeter cleared waivers and were outrighted to Indianapolis.

No changes resulted for Vieaux, but since VanMeter should be being paid his minor league split (an estimated $265,602) after his assignment, payroll goes down $63,351.

Vieaux was slated to be a minor league free agent anyway, but he can now elect free agency after the season, as he has been outrighted twice. The same scenario applies to VanMeter as a player with three plus years of service.

—Diego Castillo was recalled and Hoy Park was optioned in his place.

While the official rules aren’t available to confirm, it was initially reported that players will now receive service if they are optioned after the third day after Labor Day. If true, that means Park continues to accrue service while on option.

Castillo technically enters the Super 2 track (.139 days of service for 2022) after his recall.

Payroll goes down $659.

—The team made a suite of moves surrounding their Tuesday doubleheader, selecting Luis Ortiz, recalling Zack Collins, optioning Tucupita Marcano, and designating Bligh Madris for assignment to make room for Ortiz.

Payroll went down $18,436 as a result of the Marcano option—while Collins has the higher major league salary ($714,000 versus $705,000), Collins has a higher estimated split ($268,987 versus $114,100), explaining the drop.

One day of pay and a higher minor league salary for the rest of the season for Ortiz raised payroll $17,638.

Of note, the details surrounding the return of Ortiz were super interesting, at least for me. Chris Halicke of DK Pittsburgh Sports was on it, as it seems the rules surrounding extra players changed between this season and last—which we wouldn’t have known because THEY STILL AREN’T AVAILABLE!!! Anyway, I digress; in summary, Ortiz was actually optioned after being selected, then recalled, and he apparently has to meet the rule of being down 15-days after option, whereas he typically wouldn’t have. A safe assumption would be he could come back for an injured player, but that isn’t clear either.

It’s a tad confusing, mostly because I don’t have the rules to reference, but I at least wanted to cover it, as it was interesting and new for the few that cared enough to consider it.

—Finally, Eric Stout was recalled for Thursday’s game, while Tyler Beede and Dillon Peters were designated for assignment.

Strictly accounting for Stout, payroll goes up $67,604, while we can’t be sure yet of any changes as a result of the designations.

—Payroll stands at $60,848,625 for the Labor Relations Department, while it’s $73,882,875 for CBT purposes.

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With the caveat that I’m awful at figuring contract values for players.

Walker: 3/54
Manea: 2/32
Kiermaier: 2/25
Mancini: 2/19
Carpenter: 1/10 or a 2/18 with the second year as an option.
Perez: 1/3

The above plus a pair of relievers in the 2 million range puts them at about 115. The purpose of Kiermaier is to move Reynolds back to a corner where he should be.

Signing Walker and Manea and adding them to Keller/Ro/Bru gives them a pretty decent starting five. It also allows them to improve the bullpen mostly internally rather than on the FA market (Oviedo and Ortiz move to the pen in this scenario). And this allows Burrows and Quinn to develop longer at AAA.

Starting nine of Perez, Mancini, Castro, Cruz, Hayes, Reynolds, Kiermaier, Swaggerty, and Carpenter. This seems like a much better defensive alignment, even with Cruz as a shaky shortstop. I’d put Swag in left and Reynolds in right, and I think that OF would be great defensively. Lineup: Hayes, Reynolds, Carpenter, Mancini, Cruz, Castro, Perez, Kiermaier, Swaggerty.

Wildcard bonus signing: if Bellinger is DFA’d by the Dodgers, I’d look at a two year deal for him to play center in place of Kiermaier for a contract of similar value.

Last edited 7 days ago by ArkyWags

Christian Walker would be affordable 2nd year arb trade with dbacks. Hit his 34 HR tonite. Plays good defense at 1B to handle Cruz throws. What would it take to pry him away from AZ? Make that call Ben.


I’d start with the core. I’d offer BRey 4/80. I’d offer Mitch 5/45. I’d offer Ro 8/50. I’d offer Cruz 8/100. If all accepted I’ll just assume that’s roughly 35M right there so now we have to get creative. I’d give Belt 1/5. I’d far prefer him to Gallo, especially at that price. A part of me thinks Gallo is without a team March 1. I’d then look to Quintana or Anderson at roughly 2/20. From there, if money left over I’d offer Bell 2/15. And then our injured catcher 1/3.

Realistically I’d be happy with 80M. Assuming BRrey doesn’t take an extension then offer the other 3 and then offer Taillon, Q/Anderson, and then Bell/Belt. That team would be right there with Milwaukee


Give Taillon and Swanson 5-$80 and move Cruz to RF. Quintana 3-$30 and Perez for 1-$4 and move Oviedo and Ortiz to the pen. Trade from either the outfield or infield prospect depth for a top lefty reliever. Middle of the pack in 2023, contending by 2024 when Endy, Priester, Davis and company are on board on a full time basis.


Dansby swanson will probably get 150-200 mil i would guess so way out of our range


I don’t think Swanson gets 150-200, but 5/80 certainly isn’t enough. Plus Bogaerts and Correa (if he opts out) and they’ll get more.


Was just reading the article over on about when Q was in town last weekend. I don’t think I’ve ever read more accolades for an ex-teammate from both players and Shelton. This guy made quite an impact, especially on Contreras. Of course, he’s still got to be effective as a pitcher to bring him back…….but I’d agree with a 2 year deal, with an option for yr 3. This should be our first priority in the offseason. But how bad do the Cardinals want him??


Extend Cruz, a big NO on Gallo he is no better than what they have already, and actually could be worse. Maybe on Mancini as he is a proven hitter and can play 1st base. No on Perez way too many injuries just bring up Endy and let him play…

Pitching needs at least 1 SP that has some bona fides and for the bullpen well start from scratch and have a mass tryout…


it’s easy to forget that there indeed was a time where they paid a few players 10-15 million.

That seems like a lifetime ago.


So funny…….the AWOL jaygray comes back at the first sign of “Pirates spending $100M”!
Always love seeing how you spend Bob’s money…….great to have you back.


Lmao. I’m checked out when it comes to 2022 but when it comes to trying to win in 23 I’m still fierce!


A brief rough draft of what i might do:

Give brandon belt a shot if the medicals look good. Lots of evidence that he can still play but just had bad results. let’s day 5 million.

Bring in Jose Abreu. 3 yrs, 18 per. He and belt share 1b/DH

Mitch Haniger? 1×12?

$15 mil per year pitcher. yrs given to them can depend on the player.

Pitcher in the Quintana-Anderson signing mold. 3 mil.

roberto. 2.

5 mil for whatever you want. bullpen, Cruz frontloading, whatever.

I actually am kinda bullish on the internal bullpen options already, not to mention 2 solid SP signings would move some current starters into the pen.

not too different from Ethan. Just a little more pleasing to me.

Last edited 8 days ago by jaygray007

I could see Haniger playing for 12M annually on a multi-year deal, or sign a one-year deal for substantially more, but not a 1-year at 12. He’s one of those “really good when healthy” guys, and he clearly hasn’t been healthy this year. Someone is going to give him more guaranteed money.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have his RH bat in the outfield. Just going to take a little more. Maybe an incentive-laden deal that could pay him in the mid teens if he hits certain thresholds.


Concept of “sign a solid OF” is much more important than the exact name or contract!


Yep, I’m with you. Haniger would be one of my targets unless the M’s give him a QO, I’m just saying it’d probably take more. Which, as long as we’re talking about somebody else’s money, sure! Let’s do it!


Abreu could be a great mentor to Nunez, though I can’t see him not re-signing with the White Sox.


Concept of “sign a great 1b” is much more important than the exact name or contract!


I know that’s the big picture, it’s just when I see Nunez (young “professional hitter from Cuba”) I think of Abreu (old “professional hitter from Cuba”) 🙂


(if giving Belt another shot isnt your cup of tea, then go ahead and plant Abreu at 1b, and simply go seeking the next vogelbach for DH for 5 mil or less)


Matt Carpenter gamble!


STRONG call.


I’m into it


LF – Haniger
CF – Reynolds
RF – Let Suwinski and Mitchell and Swag fight to the death
3b – Key
SS – Cruz (and if theyre trying to win, i can be convinced into a Cruz Newman platoon)
2b – give Castro some run, and eventually Bae
1b – Belt/Abreu
DH – Abreu/Belt
C – Perez and eventually Endy/Hank hopefully

SP – Manaea?, Roansy, Keller, Brubaker, Q-type signing. Priester and Burrows ready in AAA as up and down guys. this type of depth – having legitimate prospect SP’s ready to go in AAA and able to come up and down as needed – is a large thing that i’ve noticed about many good teams this yr. And i want that. *Depending* on Priester and Burrows being ready next year would be a loser move. It’s what Neal did with Glasnow and Taillon when they both broke in, what was that, 2016? Make that duo breaking out be a luxury, not a necessity.

We can even upgrade the Manaea piece if we open ourselves up to trading a prospect or two.

Last edited 8 days ago by jaygray007

this wont happen though. payroll will be 65 max. theyll win 77 max. pointless waste of a year of all of our lives.


not necessarily against the concept of giving Gallo 20 mil. Just feel like they could do better. But if they can’t do better than that, then sure!

Overall, this offseason gameplan is very nice!

This would put them in a position to deal a few of the excess position players for some good pieces, whether those pieces be further off lotto ticket prospects, or further MLB help.

Last edited 8 days ago by jaygray007
Wilbur Miller

The problem with somebody like Gallo is that, if he turns into Yoshi, GMBS will wait far too long to cut him and Dumbo will play him every day. It’s a great gamble if you have a competent management team that gives a flying f*** about the fans and knows when to cut their losses, but that absolutely isn’t these clowns.

I’m mainly inclined toward pitchers as FAs anyway. They’re easier to trade at the deadline. Also, this teams needs about five new arms in the pen. The waiver reliever thing has been one of the biggest of GMBS’ many failures, so spending money there may be the only answer.

That said, they obviously need a C and 1B. I expect RPerez is close to a done deal, which is good, but he’ll still be a major injury risk. They wouldn’t need another C if Hodge ‘n Podge had the intelligence to give Endy and/or Sabol a shot, but that’d require . . . intelligence.

For 1B . . . I dunno, it’s really hard to believe what these clowns will put up with there. I can’t even conceive of them being interested in anybody who can hit or field at a high school level, so best not to think about it.


No to Gallo. Needs one LH starting pitcher, Everday RF & 1st base not ready to extend Cruz yet. If you acquire the right pieces you can get it up to 100M


Here’s how I’d do it:

Extend Brian Reynolds to buy out his first 2 free agent seasons. I’d go $20 million per season. Not sure if that is for 4 or 5 years, but $80 or $100 million.

Omar Narvaez for 2 years @ $6 million per season. Lefty hitter, excellent defensively.

Wil Myers for that righty bat that can play 1B, OF, DH. His market will be weak so 1 year $10 million. Josh Bell is an option here as well, but will cost more.

Quintana for 2 years $10 million per season.

I’d expect Mitchell (DH), Castro (2B), and Suwinski to open with the 2023 club. With Bae, Swaggerty, Burrows, Ortiz, and Priester ready for midseason callups.

I like our bullpen options, so I don’t spend big there.


I am in support of adding a guy like Mancini, who would bring great veteran leadership to a hopefully young team next year – one not filled out with a bunch of veteran castoffs and rejects again. Mancini is a very productive hitter, and could take turns at 1B and DH.

As for Gallo – NO, NO, and NO!!! He’s a strikeout machine and would be Vogelbach 2.0 – a hitter at the Mendoza line or below, with occasional power – and a liability in the field.

When the Pirates hit $100m in payroll, it can only mean that they were sold to ownership who actually wants to compete and win. I do not see that happening by the start of the 2023 season, unfortunately – but we can hope!


This is a terrible, but predictable take on Gallo.


Yes god forbid they acquire more above average hitters like Vogelbach when they have scores of shitty prospects to watch get their teeth kicked in.


The only two ways this teams payroll goes over $100 million while Nutting still owns it is if the average team payroll were to rise to over $300 million, or a salary floor was negotiated in the next CBA.

So, the easy answer is not in my lifetime.


Next CBA just 4 years away. Salary floor’s got to happen.


This is all a joke ?….right ?


I guess you mean me.
You wrote an article that is meaningless.


Not as meaningless as your comments here though!


Rodón 5 year $130M, Gallo 1 year $20M, extend Cruz is another path to $100M that I like better.


I like your approach! Last year I was pounding the table for the team to spend, I wanted pitchers John Gray, Steve Matz and outfielder A. Garcia or Susuki……boy was I wrong. Only Gray is having a good season but the season includes lengthy IL stints. Anyway, I stop believing this team will spend in any meaningful way.


Anthony Rizzo – 3/$50 (~17m AAV)
Adam Duvall – 2/$16 (8)
Roberto Perez – 1/$3 (3)
Tijuan Walker – 3/$50 (17)
Jose Quintana – 2/$16 (8)
Cruz extension – starting at $7m (7)

$60 million added and nothing terribly unreasonable for the club – a lot of potential upside and not too much risk. Perez is the only one I could see actually happening though.


Some decent players in your list, but can they help the Pirates get to the playoffs in 2024 assuming reasonable growth in the young guys? I’m not so sure they can.

I want to see another year of Cruz before extending him.


As an organization, you cannot wait till all your prospects hit or exceed expectations at the same time. Why? Because that won’t ever happen. They’re going to have to get uncomfortable with payroll.


I agree with rizzo. 3/50 should get it done and it seems like the perfect fit for the young pirates.


I actually like our internal options for the pen (Bednar, Yerry, Holderman, Crowe, De Jong, Bolton, Oviedo, Banuelos), but can definitely see room for an outside addition or two.

Considering Rizzo at $17m is probably the most unrealistic in my proposal, let’s switch him out for:

Trey Mancini – 2/$20m (10)
1 high end or 2 mid-range BP arms (7)


$20m may not be too high for Gallo, but it’s certainly too high for the Buccos.

What is the highest single-year salary they have ever paid to a player? The highest I can think of are $14m to McCutchen & $13m to Liriano. Not exactly inspiring or surprising.


What a true but sad headline to this article. Pathetic that we have to hope and pray for a $100m payroll. I try to root for another team but I always come back to the Pirates. Ive tried to work with my therapist to end this abusive, dead-end relationship. He will be unhappy to know I’m posting comments again.


since players get $500k for their first 3 years and maybe $5-7M/yr after that I think it’s easy to see that you can have a GREAT team with a $60-80M payroll. Just have a lot of good pre-arb talent. Rays constantly do it.


Have to develop talent much more effectively than Pirates have demonstrated.


You just described about 95% of us here, except I can’t afford a therapist!


I give Cruz the Bryce Harper Nats treatment, no extension, earn your $200M FA contract with many 5+ WAR seasons and part amicably.


OOPS! Deleting due to poor reading comp.

Last edited 8 days ago by NMR

That’s actually the more likely scenario. Make hay with Cruz during a 2024-2026 window, compete and get to the playoffs. We’re just not financially capable of the 9-figure contracts.
It’s a Cutch re-play…..get an All-Star and top 5 MVP year or two…….and get some great prospects when trading Cruz.


Oh we’re capable, better they better be worth it.


I am not against an extension, but I would not jump on one too quick. Cruz is fun to watch when he hits the ball, and will probably put people in the seats. He still needs to hit the ball more often; otherwise, he will just be the next Joey Gallo without the ability of Gallo to take a walk. Hopefully, the Pirates have learned from the Polanco extension.


Gallo, Mancini, two quality bullpen arms, and any of the SP’s listed in the article would put the Pirates in a position to possibly overtake the Brewers and become the biggest competitor to the Cards in the division.

Would need a lot to break right (and break wrong for Cards) to win the division though.

But realistically, this is all just a pipe dream as there is zero evidence Nutting has any interest in spending his way to competitiveness.


I’m all in on Mancini. Do it


After playing for years with a rebuilding Orioles team, would Mancini want to play for another rebuilding team?


While of course i want the bucs to spend much more on the team, giving joey gallo the highest AAV in team history around 20 mil gives me the heebie jeebies. Would much rather someone like rizzo or nimmo if we are going to pay that much for a position player


Rizzo would be a wonderful player to play 1B on next year’s team. Unfortunately, about 99% chance Nutting won’t offer him enough to consider signing with Pirates, and a 99% chance he has any interest in playing for a team coming off a 100-loss season.


Rizzo, is not coming here on a 1 year deal for 20m, when he can stay in NY and make 16m, and possibly win a pennant. Only way Rizzo might come here is if we gave him a multi-year deal. As far as Gallo goes, giving him 20m would be crazy, but we might be able to bring him here for 5-6m on a 1 year deal. At 5-6m he might be intriguing. He has not had a good year since 2019. I could even see him having trouble getting a Major League contract next year, and wind up on a Minor League deal.


He’s making like 10m this year based on baseball reference, no shot that turns into 20m with an ops of .643 on the season


In his last year arbitration, which is inherently below market value.

You’ve gotta factor the (correct) caveats Ethan adds in; he’ll almost certainly have multi-year offers, so to take a 1-yr deal with a shit club a premium is required.

Might not be $20m, but it ain’t gonna be less than he’s making this year.

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