Friday Focus: Pirates’ Payroll is Not Reflective of This Team

Gary Morgan Jr.

Year after year the Pirates have repeated their intention to win. Year after year the payroll is in the bottom third of the league. That’s not acceptable, and if Travis Williams and Ben Cherington are to be believed, it won’t always be the case.

One thing I love is a great steak. I’ve tried most of the famous steak houses out there and enjoyed them thoroughly. But let’s be real, there are steaks that cost a third of those top end chains that you’d enjoy almost just as much. In fact, I have.

I look at this club much the same. Note, I didn’t say you should enjoy chopped liver on the same level as that sizzling steak, but if you can get extremely close to that level of quality for far less, eat it up. And before the meal, I don’t think many would offer the server an extra $100 because their meal didn’t cost enough.

This is a young team, one that could benefit from some spending, but not devoid of talent. I don’t blame the Bucs for having hit on two extremely cost- effective youngsters last season in the form of Bryan Reynolds and Kevin Newman. I can’t be salty that Josh Bell is still in arbitration and thus still extremely affordable. Chris Archer was a name and popular trade target almost as much for his years of control and affordable contract as his pedigree. Most other starters are still pre-free agency as well. 

Polanco was signed long term long before he proved himself, if you believe he has as of yet. Jacob Stallings spent his rookie season winning the job behind the dish and yes, like the rest makes next to nothing. 

Essentially, I can’t be mad that the team is young and affordable. They could certainly go get some pricey free agents or trade for some costly pieces and the team would improve, but would it improve enough to win or merely improve? Ben is betting on the former. He’s betting on this young group to improve and, at least his stated intent, is to add to it moving forward.

Part of this equation needs to be spending to keep players who have proven themselves part of the core, but there is no reason to get angry that Bryan Reynolds is cheap. That’s how it works, young players are affordable and veterans cost money. Is it “fair” that newly signed Jarrod Dyson will make $2 million dollars while Reynolds makes the $583,500 he will bring in this season, well, yeah, because he won’t always be at that level.

There is room to complain, don’t get me wrong. This club certainly could and possibly should have gone out and gotten a legit catcher to at least compete with Stallings. They could and should have gone out and gotten a better option than Derek Holland to compete for a starting spot in the rotation, but there aren’t slots for a $70 million increase to be had, not without pushing some young players out of the way or worse, out of the organization.

These youngsters may never win it all as a core, but when you know this is how a team like this must build can you afford to toss Ke’Bryan Hayes out with the bathwater and go get Kris Bryant or Nolan Arenado? Do you even have the prospect capital to do so?

At the end of the day, the payroll figure is dependent on a litany of factors and can’t always be summed up by envisioning Bob Nutting installing new ski lifts. If this is done right, and that is exactly what Ben and Travis have assured, the money saved today will be allocated tomorrow. It remains to be seen if this is reality or placating an angry fan base, but I can tell you this, I’m more comfortable with this figure than adding $20 million for a pitcher who might add 10-15 wins this season. If USA Today is to be believed they’d still be in line to lose 85 games. So, I’d rather gain those wins later when they are meaningful.

I think of 1989, a young team with an emerging superstar and a pitching staff with little more than potential. Not a ton of stars, relatively few names, but building. If Ben has bet right, Taillon’s return and another year under the belt of some promising youngsters could be a recipe for success, and shhh, it’ll still be cheap next season too.

Follow Gary on Twitter: @garymo2007

Comments (9)

We have endured lie after lie and salary dump after salary dump and a culture of losing that comes right from the worst owner in baseball. His profit margin is still on par with other owners though. He is am embarrassment to our great city. If you take Vazquez's salary out of the equation this year where are we? Around 50 million. A joke just lije our owner.

No. 1-3

Although you are just peachy with the low payroll, and suggest that this team isn't going to win anything anyway (so, in your logic, keeping the payroll low is just fine), if they had kept Marte and invested, say $30M yearly salary in a couple key free agents (thereby bringing their payroll up to something less than pathetic, but still very low by mlb standards) then they might have a competitive, fun team which the fans could embrace and get excited about. As it stands, we are just given the same old excuses that are fed to us each and every year (i.e. "the free agents that might have helped our team weren't available this year", "we feel that we have the players here that have room to improve", "you have to overpay for a free agent", etc...) The fact is, there is no reason at all to feel confident that this owner will ever spend the money that teams just in his own division spend to build a winner, or to add to a nucleus. So, that leaves the front office. Nutting (and, quite frankly, you reporters) want us to believe that Cherrington and company, and the new outlook, is such a refreshing great start. However, you seem to forget that the other teams seemingly employ pretty smart people of their own. So, where is our advantage with that? They have smart people to, but with owners who support their teams with much higher payroll. This team is simply doomed. It will never win more than entry into the one-and-done Wild Card scenario that they found themselves in 5 or so years least while this carpetbagger owns the team.


The Steak analogy is awful, especially when all humans have a frugivores digestive system. That is absolute. At any rate, the steak analogy just prove how out of touch and foolish humans currently are. Reading about addictions that turn into self-inflicted dependencies all the time which bring humanity down is a drag and dumb. Why impose your addictions on others in a baseball article? Please take time out of your life to realize such things.