Today I finished putting together the 2014 40-man payroll page, which will be updated throughout the off-season, and in to the regular season. Bookmark that link, as I’ll be updating the chart after every move throughout the off-season. The chart provides an estimate of the year-end 2014 payroll, which will definitely change throughout the off-season.
Right now the estimate is made up of three things. First we have the guaranteed salaries. Next are the projected arbitration increases. Finally there are the projected roster decisions. I didn’t include projected free agents, since that’s unpredictable. I mostly stuck with players who were out of options, or who didn’t play a huge role at the end of the season. For example, Felix Pie wasn’t on the playoff roster, so I don’t see him getting arbitration. Ryan Reid wasn’t a September call-up, so I can’t see him being tendered a contract.
I projected a 25-man roster when making this payroll chart. All of the guys making more than the league minimum are on the active roster. There might be some differences in opinions beyond that, but as far as payroll, it would remain the same. Maybe some have Brandon Cumpton making the rotation over Jeff Locke. Both would make around the league minimum, so it wouldn’t impact the payroll. Because the focus here is on the estimated payroll, I didn’t break down those decisions that had little to no impact on the payroll.
The Pirates are currently projected for a $60,924,500 payroll in 2014. A lot can change with that figure. As an example, last year they had a projected $63,101,800 when I first made the chart around this time of year. The end of year payroll estimate was $74,460,458. To get an idea of what can impact that figure, let’s look at some of the biggest contract issues.
Garrett Jones/Gaby Sanchez
I have them both as non-tender candidates, although they might not be non-tendered. They could be traded if there are other takers out there. Jones is the key here. I think he’s the most likely to be non-tendered, due to his estimated arbitration increase, and his performance in 2013. Gaby Sanchez did his job in the 2013 platoon, but if Jones is gone, there’s no need for Sanchez. I estimate he would make $3 M, and I can’t see the Pirates spending that on a bench first baseman if they have no platoon.
If the Pirates bring back A.J. Burnett, it could bump the payroll up to $75 M. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
Burnett is a free agent, but the Pirates will try to bring him back. The qualifying offer to get draft compensation for free agents is $14.1 M. That’s the max I could see Burnett getting from the Pirates, which would take their payroll estimate up to $75 M. That’s the total they ended the 2013 season with, although there are the National TV revenues to consider, plus the playoff and 2013 ticket revenues.
The Pirates will be able to spend much more than their 2013 total. For one, teams will see about $20-25 M in National TV revenues. The Pirates also saw an increase in attendance in 2013, and will receive additional playoff revenues. The National TV money will make a much bigger impact. You have to consider things such as taxes when it comes to these revenues. However, considering the Pirates spent just under $75 M in 2013, I could see them capable of spending around $100 M in 2014 when you factor in the new revenues.
The Pirates made a lot of moves to balance the payroll last year, only adding $4 M to their total over the off-season. They traded Joel Hanrahan, then used the savings to sign Francisco Liriano, Jeff Karstens, and Jonathan Sanchez. They also added Mark Melancon in that move. Earlier in the off-season they signed Russell Martin. In the last two years they have been active on the free agent front, although they haven’t pursued any impact players. Instead they’ve gone for middle tier players. It will be interesting to see if the Pirates go after someone like Jose Abreu this year. They don’t have many needs to fill, and as pointed out above, they have a lot of money available. They could definitely afford a bigger contract than some of the deals they’ve made in the past.
The difference between the Opening Day payroll and the final payroll is always big. There’s no way to project all of the in-season moves, whether that comes in the form of trades, waiver claims, or the constant promotions and demotions from Triple-A. In the last two years the Pirates have added about $7 M per season during the regular season. In previous years it has been as high as $11 M. The estimated number represents the Opening Day projections. You could probably add $5-10 M to that figure on Opening Day to guess what the final figure would be. So if they do spend up to $100 M, I don’t think it will all come by Opening Day.
The estimated payroll is exactly that, an estimate. It doesn’t include every bonus, incentive, or exact salary figures for the league minimum guys. In the past, the estimate has been pretty accurate. In 2010 the end of the year figure was $1.36 M short of the actual results. In 2011 the estimate was off by $1.66 M. In 2012 the estimate was $1.91 M off the actual year-end payroll. So based on those three years, the estimate has a margin of error of $1.64 M on average.