Pirates Business: Arbitration

It’s been a while, but we have another deadline!

This Friday, teams and players eligible for arbitration will have to exchange salary figures for 2023, unless they have already agreed upon contracts for this season that is.

At this point, the Pittsburgh Pirates have only come to terms with Miguel Andújar from their pending arbitration class, with five players left to go: JT Brubaker, Ji-Man Choi, Mitch Keller, Robert Stephenson, and Duane Underwood Jr.

For reference, here are the projections for each player, via MLB Trade Rumors:

Choi: $4.5 million

Keller: $2.4 million

Brubaker: $2.0 million

Stephenson: $1.9 million

Underwood Jr.: $1.0 million

Teams and players can still come to agreements between the filing deadline and any scheduled hearings, which are set to begin on January 30th. Of course, like many in baseball now, the Pirates consider themselves a “file and trial” team, meaning they prefer not to come to an agreement—outside of long-term pacts (i.e. Bryan Reynolds)—after they’ve filed their numbers.

A change to the arbitration process this season—likely as part of the new CBA—if teams and players agree to terms outside of a hearing, the salary is guaranteed. This is different from prior years, where arbitration salaries weren’t guaranteed until the season started. That simply means that if Andújar were to not make the final roster, his entire $1,525,000 would be guaranteed, whereas he only would have been guaranteed 30 or 45 days of pay before, depending on when the contract was terminated.

One final aspect of the process that bares mentioning—any player that is reaching arbitration for the first time after the 2022 season and played during the 2020 season, their statistics are to be extrapolated for 2020 as if it was a full season, not the partial one it actually was. For the Pirates, this applies to Brubaker, Keller, and Underwood Jr.

On an individual player level, I’ve personally been intrigued with how the situations of Underwood Jr. and Stephenson are going to play out. Two players who many saw as sure roster causalities going into the offseason, both have staved off the many additions to the roster to this point. Now, with a bullpen that appears, at least at this point, to be quite full and with more moves likely to come, it’s possible that at least one doesn’t make it to Opening Day with the team.

Offseason Calendar Update

As covered above, the filing deadline for arbitration is Friday, January 13th.

Also, this is more in John Dreker’s purview, but it needs mentioned that the 2022-2023 International Signing Period kicks off on Sunday, January 15th.

Pirates Payroll Updates

—After being designated for assignment, Bryse Wilson was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for cash considerations.

I had already outrighted Wilson at one point in my projection, so payroll went down $279,089 after officially striking him from the ledger.

—The Rich Hill signing was made official this week, and Zach Thompson was designated for assignment to make room on the roster,

This struck me as a slight surprise, as I had Thompson on my current projected roster and didn’t foresee him as being in front of the line as far as corresponding roster moves go. I replaced him with Yohan Ramirez, and payroll went down $135,199 as a result.

—For 2023, the payroll estimate stands at $67,867,909 for the Labor Relations Department, while it’s $84,284,576 for CBT purposes.

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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The Gunner

Ethan………can you explain the difference between the payroll estimate of $67,867,909 for the Labor Relations Department & the $84,284,576 for CBT purposes?



As SBRO has previously mentioned, Spotrac is a great reference. If you’re looking for TOTAL payroll, take the LRD number and add player benefits, MiLB salaries, and the MLB draft and international bonus pools. These aforementioned categories total an approximate $42M, which puts TOTAL payroll at about $110M.

Last edited 16 days ago by Anthony
The Gunner

Thanks, Ethan…….one more question (an easier one)

Does the $67,867,909 figure you posted above include your estimate on what the pending arb players will cost?


Appreciate somebody asking the question on my mind!


You may be able to keep Zach Thompson on your Roster – no bites from any other teams after the first 3 days since he was DFA’d. A late bloomer who had an excellent Rookie season with Miami (1.3 fWAR), and then could not validate with the Pirates in 2022 (0.2 fWAR).

Provided 122 innings last year which was the 3rd highest number of innings pitched following just Keller (159 IP) and BRU (144 IP). Hope we get a chance to keep him.


Ethan, any thoughts on how the increase in money being paid to many FA’s this winter over the early projected amounts will factor into arbitration? In short, should we expect to see arbitration figures to go up, too?


Not Ethan, so apologies for weighing in unsolicited, but I’ve wondered this myself. I would expect inflation at the bottom of the market and for first year players as the league minimum salary jump in the new CBA has another year to be baked in. $1M now is a much smaller increase over the league minimum than $1M was in 2021, and every agent should be making this point early and often in the player’s filing number. Higher first year figures lead to higher 2nd, 3rd and 4th (Super-2) figures as the increases compound off a higher base.

Certainly there will be some impact from the pre-free agent extensions signed over the last 12 months as well (Musgrove, Riley, Chapman, Crawford, Alvarez, etc). These are fair game for arb comps, as I’ve heard.

Now, as to whether the contracts signed by the likes of Judge or Bogaerts will pull up arb salaries, I have my doubts. Free agent salaries aren’t supposed to be used as direct comps for arbitration. Agents can certainly try to make the argument that their 6th-year clients should benefit from the same AAV jump that the current free agent class is enjoying, but there’s a pretty big risk of overreach and losing before an arbitrator. Overall I would expect agents to be more modest in their asks, and therefore minimal impact on filing figures from that perspective.

But the compounding off the higher base and the extensions will absolutely push salaries higher, and that’s not nothing.


Thanks for taking the time to give your thoughts on the subject. Agree with much of what you said.

I don’t expect the Judge, and other mega FA deals, to impact arbitration results either. But I do think the larger 1-3 year deals, especially for Pitchers, may affect salaries for guys like Keller & Bru. At least a little bit.

Last edited 20 days ago by skliesen

Not sure the payment of possibly 20 FA’s well after the 2022 season ended should have much effect in this current round of Arbitration. Possibly more impact after the 2023 season.


Not sure I agree with the statement “the system is designed to suppress earnings,” but not interested in debating the point. I appreciate your response.


As for the championship belt portion of your comment, I hadn’t heard about that. If true, and I have no reason to believe it’s not, it’s most certainly a childish act by a moron, or group of morons.

On a macro level, I view Arbitration as an equitable manner to compensate young veterans prior to reaching FA based on performance, rather than draft position, as it’s done in NFL.

A much more fair system than the one the NFL employs for better players.


Come on, do you have arbitration in your line of work? If someone wants to pay you $50,000 more, can’t you just say yes?


Say what, Willis?

b mcferren

Pollock takes the Mariners out of the Reynolds sweepstakes?

when is Miami going to shit and get off the pot and give us the Eury Perez pitcher that we want?


Marlins, Rangers, and Pirates could put together a good 3-team deal. Rangers get Reynolds and the Marlins get Josh Jung. Pirates get something good from each team. Maybe Edward Cabrera from Miami, Evan Carter from Texas, and some other pieces get scattered around to make everyone happy.

Not sure on Cabrera and how he’s viewed around the league but he was tough to hit last year (44 hits in 71 innings). Maybe Owen White from Texas too. Not sure I have a deal there that balances out and makes everyone happy but I think they can find one between the three of them if they work at it. Ben C should start listening to my ideas.


Perez and Alcantara or untouchable all the other pitchers are available according to reports.

b mcferren

and that is exactly the number 1 reason why a Reynolds trade has not happened yet

Last edited 20 days ago by b mcferren
Wilbur Miller

Really hard to understand why you’d go to arbitration with Underwood.


Yes, as they say before calling a race on election night:
“I’ve seen enough”


I can give you Pirates reasoning…..Stephenson is projected for $1.9M and Underwood $1M. So obviously the Pirates will file with Underwood and non tender Stephenson.


I’m sure someone can make a compelling case for it, but that person isn’t me.


Nick Mears has been claimed again. This time by the Rockies.


Hard for me to understand what value Mears projects for teams, including the Pirates.


Great stuff. Just has no idea where it’s going.


Yeah, I saw that too. He and Lewin are certainly finding temporary love from several teams.

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