Aug 16, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Gaby Sanchez (14) doubles against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the eighth inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Why Pittsburgh Pirates Payroll Is So Low, an Answer for Mark Madden.


Mark Madden…. One day you’ll stop writing and talking about the Pittsburgh Pirates.  But until that merciful gift is bestowed upon all Pirate fans, you’ll just continue to be wrong and make yourself look like a rube in the process.  It’s to the point now that your logic is so flawed that every time I hear that you try to talk baseball it immediately evokes my sympathy.

In your latest hate speech directed towards Pirate fans and management, you wrote a literary classic titled “Can’t Explain”, a blog asking Pirate fans and/or Bob Nutting to justify the $71 million dollar payroll entering into the 2014 season.  Ok.  So, I’ll justify it to you.  (slowly, so you can follow me).

Let’s start with the obvious.  Had Burnett accepted the $12m offer they made to him, the salary immediately jumps to $83m.  Roughly $15m more than the all-time high they spent last year, and close to double what they spent in 2010.  So your point is already rendered moot.  They have spent money and they are trying to spend more.

I should be able to stop there because there’s your answer, but I feel you have more to learn, so I’ll continue.

You see… when a team extends a potential contract, the other party involved actually has to consent to entering into said agreement to consummate the partnership or else that won’t be reflected in the payroll.  I know this is difficult for you to understand.  If you need to take a break, let me know.

It’s not Neal Huntington’s fault Burnett acted like a petulant child who didn’t get everything he wanted for Christmas, stormed up into his room, locked the door, pouted, then took his ball and went to Philadelphia.  God forbid we actually would have thought Burnett would have some type of professional loyalty to the city that resurrected his career after he was left for dead in New York.

This is a guy who was chased out of the big apple with torches and pitch forks.  He was washed up.  His average ERA the prior two seasons before he joined us was worse than Edison Volquez’s prior two year average ERA.  If you don’t believe me, look it up.  His career was over before he got here.  We are the reason he’s able to cash that big check this year!  So much for gratitude.  Thanks again AJ.  Have fun being a nobody in Philly.

And don’t say he left because of the proximity to home.  A non-stop flight from Pittsburgh to Baltimore takes 1 hour.  We’re not stupid.  At least not all of us.

And to answer your Morneau argument.  Uhh….it’s sad that I even have to explain this to you, but if I must… I must.

No one is arguing that Morneau is a solid player that has had some great seasons in the past.  But that is the primary word here.  “past”.  Over the last three seasons, his overall batting average has been roughly .255.  To his credit, he surpassed that with his time here, hitting a whopping .260.  I see why you like him so much.  But let’s look even closer.

Your proposing that they signed Morneau to be an everyday starter I assume.  The Pirates would have no choice.  He wouldn’t be happy with anything less.  So let’s look at what they’d get for just “$5million”.

Again, looking at a 3 year average, Morneau has hit .258 overall since 2010.  That’s mediocre at best.  But when you look at what he did against LHP it gets really ugly, he hit .205.  Last year he finished 30th among first basemen with 50 at bats or more against LHP with a .207 average.

In comparison, Gaby Sanchez finished 2nd among first basemen in the same category with a .333 batting average against LHP, trailing only Miguel Cabrera.  Let me slow down here… this is important.  Gaby Sanchez hit left handed pitching better then every….other….first basemen… in baseball….except the triple crown winning, 2-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera.

I’m only hoping that you didn’t know that which is why you’d suggest they should have signed Morneau.

So with that knowledge, in all of your genius, you would still like the Pirates to sit the 2nd best left handed hitting first basemen in the entire major leagues in favor of a guy who would hit at the Mendoza line?  I’m speechless.

Now Morneau does have a good 3 year average against righty’s (.281), but if you tell me that he would be ok with the idea of platooning with Gaby Sanchez, then I’d be forced to call you a liar.   And sitting Gaby Sanchez considering what he’s was able to do last year against south paws is probably the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.

And they did try to spend money on James Loney.  It was reported that they offered him a very comparable amount to what he got in Tampa Bay.  Which assuming the accuracy of the report, would have been another $6million added on to payroll this year had he accepted.  Which would have put the payroll at $89m.  $22 million over last year’s total.

But again, if you look back a few paragraphs..  people actually have to accept the offers in order for the payroll to increase.  The premise is mind boggling, I know.  Apparently Loney would prefer to be 80 degrees underneath palm trees instead of scraping ice off of his car every morning.  Go figure.

So to summarize.  Take notes please as to not repeat the same mistake.   They tried to sign Burnett for $12million.  They tried to sign Loney for $6million.  And keeping Morneau would have been an absolute asinine decision.

What other first basemen do you propose they go get?  Kendrys Morales?   Give up a first round draft pick and pay $15+ million for that?  Or should they trade their best prospects to go get Ike Davis?   Maybe they should have spent $35million over two years and tried to get Mike Napoli from the Red Sox?  Or signed Cory Hart for $6million after the guy missed the entire 2013 season with multiple surgeries?

Please, in all of your wisdom, propose a solution that actually makes sense.  Bottom line is they tried their best to find a suitable platoon player for Gaby Sanchez because it would be downright stupid to sit him against left handed pitching, but the market wasn’t co-operating.

So next time you go on a rant about the Pirates and ask for an explanation from the fans regarding why the payroll is so low after receiving additional revenue when the answer is so obvious it’s literally biting you in the goutee.

Be careful.  You might just get one.

For real Pirate insight follow me on twitter @TheBigTuna66

Tags: Featured Featured Image Gaby Sanchez Justin Morneau Mark Madden Pittsburgh Pirates

  • scott stevens

    What’s your point Tony, Nutting doesn’t have the money to pay above market value for players and by offering below market value he’s a good guy? Another clueless writer that refuses to believe the Pirates made huge profits last year, will get approx 20 mil handed to them and as reported in most financial publications have a owner in the top 10 of wealthiest in MLB. So a little bump up in payroll from the bottom of the barrel of a few years ago to the same bottom of the bottom payroll this year pleases you. So if your just happy with the going to the park with the kids, watch the fireworks and don’t care if we win a championship mentality then say so, hey we have a team in Pittsburgh lets not push for much more. Well there are loyal fans, such as Madden writes for that want to see a championship and aren’t so gullible as to fall for the lies tossed out from ownership. Your rant to the apologists and criticizing of Madden Is just what Nutting wants, and you fully provide it. Instead of you rehashing the we are broke crap, do an article on where all the money goes the Pirates make, but then you may have to take your rose colored glasses off.

    • Tony Canella

      Just stating the facts. And actually, I am pretty happy watching the Pirates. We were 5 wins from the World Series. Some pretty good baseball being played at PNC park if you ask me. I look forward to another great year! I hope you do too!

    • ResistanceIsUseless

      This tired old saw again.

      Let me address some of the misconceptions in your outlook. Hopefully your attention span is long enough to read through the whole thing.

      Firstly, you’re ignoring the fact that reports have shown that Nutting was willing to increase the team’s payroll into the $85 million range for the upcoming season. Would you still be complaining if they’d have done that? If you would be, please let everyone know what you think the Pirates should be spending on players’ salaries.

      In several minutes of web searching, the only place I could find Nutting ranked 10th wealthiest amongst baseball owners was a 2 year old piece by Bob Smizik in which he cited a CNBC article. While Smizik’s blog piece is still available, that CNBC article doesn’t seem to be, so I couldn’t see the full ranking. In that much time things can change. Am I correct guessing that you’re unaware the Dodgers were sold to a new owner? I can’t say for certain, but given that the old owner had to sell because his divorce was leaving him cash strapped (in millionaires’ terms), I would bet the Dodgers’ new ownership bumps Nutting down a spot.

      Also, the same article seemed to show “The Nutting Family” as being so wealthy. I don’t know how the Nuttings divide their wealth, or even how big the family is. However, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that Bob doesn’t have control of all that money to put into the Pirates, as other family members likely have some say in where it goes.

      Another thing is what gets counted as “wealth”? Is the value of the team included? I’d expect it would be. What about his other assets? Seven Springs, surely, as well as the newspapers the family owns and probably other assets. While there are surely some liquid assets, most of those assets are not cash that can be put into the Pirates’ players’ salaries.

      Finally, what gets lost is that the Pirates cash flow isn’t what the big market teams have. The Pirates have one of the smallest stadiums in MLB and yet they charge less for tickets than most teams. Nonetheless, they lag behind most other teams in attendence. Also, while it has been disputed, some reports state that their TV deal is below average. So, the amount of money the Pirates have coming in for a given year is probably low, compared to most teams.

      As for an article on where the money goes, a complete accounting isn’t going to happen with full accuracy because the team is a private entity with closed accounting records. Player payrolls are public, but much of the rest of any such article would be speculation.

      This isn’t to say that I think the Pirates couldn’t spend more. In fact, I would like to see them spend more, provided it was in a smart fashion (we don’t need any more 37 year old washed up outfielders making $6 million per year). However you are off base when you try to say things like “Nutting is super rich so should spend more!” Sure, he’s super rich now, but he probably wouldn’t stay that way for long if he pumped lots of his personal wealth into the Pirates’ players’ salaries; then we’d be looking at yet another player fire sale (like 2003) or yet another owner, who might choose to move to New Orleans or Portland or …

    • Tony Canella

      Good points. For me, I could care less about how much money Nutting makes. If we didn’t have a good product on the field, I would care more about that.

      But the facts are that we had one of the best teams in the league last year, and 90% of our 2013 roster is back. So really, what’s there to complain about?

    • Burt Valawzio

      couldn’t care less. not could care less.

    • scott stevens

      Had to read it twice, because I have two words for you, Clueless and Gullible.
      Funny I did not hear you mention the Pirates trying to win a World Series. Do you really care if they do or are you just happy we have a team in Pittsburgh? No one is asking for Nutting to spend crazy amounts of money, but a payroll like other small market teams would be expected at this point. We have a legitimate chance the next few years to be special and to play cheap is an insult to the fans who want a championship and not just a place to take the kids and have a day at the park. Im sick of watching minor league ball at PNC the last 20 out of 21 years. This ownership will get a boat load of money when they sell, do you think it’s unreasonable to expect a fair competitive increase in this years payroll, especially with each team reaping the rewards of the new MLB deal of a minimum payment of. 20 million?

    • ResistanceIsUseless

      Ad hominem attacks don’t prove your point.

      Gullible? No. Clueless? Hopefully objective readers will not think that based on my posts, which use knowledge and facts instead of name calling.

      Thoughtful? Often. Willing to look at all the evidence? Yes.

      You continue to ignore evidence that doesn’t support your rants. Had the Pirates signed Burnett, or the duo of Johnson and Loney, their payroll would be in the mid-$80 millions. That would not only put them ABOVE most of the other “small market” teams, but may well have put them above some of the big market teams’ salaries for the year (White Sox, Cubs, & Mets all project to be $84 million to $87 million, according to the Denver Post).

      “,,, a payroll like other small market teams …” is not an answer to my question. What should the Pirates’ payroll be this season? I’m not asking you to give an exact figure like $91.25 million, but would $85 million satisfy you? $90 million? Or do you demand $100 million? Or $200 million?

      What’s more insulting to fans? Not spending big now to take a chance at a single championship (which we may get anyway)? Or putting the team into such dire straits that we get another long streak of losing seasons (and maybe missing that championship anyway – remember ’91, when the team was supposed to win it all)? I’ll take the track that seems more likely to keep them competitive for five to ten years, rather that taking a shot at just one or two years.

      Of course I want the Pirates to win another World Series. In fact, I want them to win a few more before I meet my doom (I remember ’79 and was alive for ’71, although I don’t remember it). As long as there is no salary cap, building through scouting, drafting well, signing well internationally, and then developing that talent seems to be the only way for teams outside the big markets to compete. Picking up a free agent to fill a hole (like the team did with Russell Martin) can help. However, there wasn’t that big a hole to fill this year which didn’t have internal solutions worth trying. Spending just to keep the fans happy that you spent doesn’t play well in the long run … look at Bonifay’s and Littlefield’s results.

      Just happy to have the Pirates in Pittsburgh? I can’t imagine them anywhere else. That said, there are 5 MLB teams whose home games are closer to where I’ve made my home for the last 26 years than the Pirates. In those 26 years I’ve seen the Bucs on the road more than in Pittsburgh. Nonetheless, I’ve loved them through thick and thin since I was a kid and probably always will.

  • MP34

    Actually, I agree on all parts except Corey Hart. I’d have paid 1yr 6mil just to see what he has left in the tank, only because that’s the going rate these days.

    • Tony Canella

      He was a special player. Would have been nice seeing him perform against the Brewers as well.

    • MP34

      I agree there too. I’m new to this page. So, I’ll be checking back, thanks!

    • Tony Canella

      Appreciate it MP34.

    • Tj Streib

      Hey they took a shot with Liriano & that worked. They’re paying almost that much for Volquez & that’s iffy. I think Hart would’ve definitely been worth a shot at that price.

    • Tony Canella

      He was a special player. Would have been nice to see him perform against the Brewers as well.

  • Tj Streib

    I would’ve taken Hart over Morneau. Hart had as many HRs last year as Morneau had as a Pirate – ZERO. As for Burnett, good riddance! You hit the nail on the head. I don’t believe the Pirates wanted him back once the crybaby act (over Game 5) & subsequent drama started – why do you think the Yankees paid $16 million for him to pitch HERE?

    • Tony Canella

      Well said Tj… sadly, I think the Yankees paid us $20m over two to take him. If that doesn’t tell you how bad they wanted him out, nothing does.

  • billv923

    billv923

  • billv923

    did anyone notice what boston wants for mike carp josh bell, willy garcia, or nick kingham if it was my choice i ll say garcia by the way thier playing each other right now

    • Tony Canella

      Wow… Mike Carp would be the perfect addition. $1.4m salary and not a free agent until 2017. Hit .300 against RHP last year with 9 HR/43 RBI’s. Tough to give up Bell or Kingham. Would definitely pull the trigger on Garcia. Haven’t heard what they’re asking though.

  • DJ Johnny Johnson Jackson

    Man, Scott – did you just wake up from a bad dream?? Since when has double M ever cared about rationally discussing the Buccos…nonetheless rooting for them to bring home a championship. Listen, we all know the Super Genius has a schtick and that is to be as WWF or WWE or whatever asinine studio “wrasting” channel there is nowadays. His schtick applies for everything accept most Steelers commentary and all Pens commentary…the 2 topics he has rational and rather interesting commentary. The Big Tuna has consistently laid out a pretty logical and at times funny summary of last year and coming attractions for the ’14 Bucs. Are the Nuttings pocketing cash? Absolutely! Its their business and its their right by law to do so. Now, do they have an obligation to put a good product on the field for the people of PGH. Yes. But, putting a good product on the field is more of an obligation to keep their business growing and profitable. Are we going to be a contender this year for our division? Looks like it. Is PGH happy to be 5 games from the world series? Absolutely.

    • Tony Canella

      Thanks DJ Johnny Johnson Jackson. I agree with you. Nutting is miserably cheap and that puts allot of restrictions on what NH can do with personnel. I think he really screwed up so far this offseason, but not due to lack of trying. He just made the wrong moves. That being said, you can’t argue with what he’s been able to do in 5 years. Not sure what else he has to accomplish for people will realize that he actually knows what he’s doing..

  • Patrick

    The major downfall of many local blogs is the lack of an objective point of view. This article is a perfect example of that. Blaming Aj Burnett for not signing for 12 mil? How about blaming Nutting for not footing the bill for $14.1 in the first place, because apparently that was the market, after all. We are the reason AJ is able to cash in? As a blogger, i’m sure you would be offended if I took credit for writing this blog for you, so I will let you notice the irony in taking credit for AJ’s arm.

    Yes…I agree on the obvious, which is to say signing Davis, Morales and Morneau would have been a bad idea, but to blame the lack of signings on the market? I doubt that. They could have paid more for Loney and decided against it. They could have offered Burnett a qualifying offer but they wanted a discount instead.

    I’m not necessarily saying whaht they did was wrong, considering the young core, but please don’t say what it isn’t. Don’t say the Pirates tried their best, because it’s hard to believe they did.

    • Tony Canella

      I like this post. It’s insightful. A few arguments however.

      One, a blog is supposed to reflect the opinion of the blogger. Objectivity is for newspapers friend. And aside from that. This article, as is the case with all of my articles, is supported heavily with facts, numbers, statistics, and real events. I think that’s a little harsh on your end.

      Two, of course Pittsburgh is responsible for AJ’s resurgence and his subsequent paycheck. To not acknowledge that if he hadn’t came here and stayed in New York pitching with over a 5.00ERA and giving up 27 HR’s a year that he would have landed the same contract is a bit naive. Yes, it was ‘his arm’ that was throwing the pitches. But he still had ‘his arm’ in New York and him and ‘his arm’ was sent packing with just the shirt on his back. Pittsburgh, the fans, the coaches, and his teammates were the reason he bounced back. Plain and simple.

      Three. This was by far NH’s worst offseason. And I truly believe if he knew then what he knows now, he would have done things differently and possibly made the qualifying offer. But stating the obvious that Nutting is cheap is boring and played out to me. We all know he’s cheap. No one can dispute that. He’s as cheap as they come. You can either do two things. Accept it like me and focus on the players we DO have. Or don’t accept it and complain about it non-stop and fail to appreciate the fact that we now have one of the best teams in the league despite him being a cheap SOB.

      That being said. Good post. Thank you.

  • Vinnie Vega

    Dude, I appreciate what you’re trying to say, but stick to your god given vocabulary. Using words like invoke when the sentiment requires evoke and using mute when the word is moot, just makes you look like the rube. While I have absolutely no love loss for Madden, your point (that he’s a dumbass) is completely out the window when butchering the delivery.

    • Tony Canella

      A little nitpicky aren’t we? haha.. There I changed it. Go back to English class professor.

    • Vinnie Vega

      Gotcha, chief. ;-) The article’s fine, but you call fatboy out for being a rube, then use a bunch of wrong words to illustrate your point. Seems like your devalued your point to me.

    • Tony Canella

      I agree… hard to catch everything though. And a ‘bunch’ is a little harsh! C’MON MAN! haha.

  • Gary Fischman

    Yes, you offer $6 million or even more to Corey Hart, a bargain if he comes back to be even close to the player he was. That would still be better than the unproven Lambo in right field or at 1st and an improvement over Tabata in right field. As recently as 2012, his OPS was .841. His career OPS vs RHP is .825; vs LHP it’s .893. That’s an everyday player. I could see him playing first with Tabata in right against righties and moving to right field with Sanchez at first against lefties. Well, that’s moot now, since he signed cheaply with someone else.

    • Tony Canella

      I always liked Corey Hart. Great player. And he beat us up many times throughout the years. Just a bit risky for my taste. I hope he has a great year.

  • atypical1

    The Pirates only offered A.J. $12mil after Loney had signed with the Rays. Before then, it was reported they were offering around $8.5, so the $89mil number you are throwing out is non-existent. Besides, that’s a bigger payroll than management said they would pay. They said they were willing to spend between $17-$19 million – that at most puts then at a max of $83 million.

    You say Morneau wouldn’t have signed to platoon, but don’t seem to think that would have been an issue for Loney. Why not? Do you think the Pirates, having already had Gaby under contract, would play the inferior hitter against LHP? Incidentally, Morneau OPS’d .819 vs. RHP in a down year, Loney OPS’d .790 against RHP in a good year. I would have been ok with Napoli at $37 for 2 years, absolutely. You could have signed him and had a payroll of $88mil (or $83 if you skipped Voloquez), with Nap’s contract coming off the books when the core is moving into late arbitration/free agency. Corey Hart represents something of a gamble, but $6mil for a guy who could realistically provide 3 war could be a real bargain. The other chumps I don’t care about, would rather see Lambo (edit: except maybe Carp – he has me curious).

    And the Pirates ended up last year at $74 million, I don’t know where you got that $22 million difference from.

    • Tony Canella

      Good post. Thanks.

      In regards to Morneau. He is well past his prime, but he’s still a 4 time all-star, former MVP who has never assumed a platoon role to date. Even when we brought him here for a month, he was an everyday 1st basemen. He would not accept playing 100 games. You may be right about Loney. Perhaps he wouldn’t be interested in that either. Maybe that’s why he didn’t sign. Good point.

      In regards to the Pirate budget, again, I think you’re right. I bet Nutting gave NH about $80-85m limit this year. My point of the article was to dispute Mark Madden’s assumption that the Pirates don’t want to spend any money. I don’t think that’s the case, I just think they were more than willing to increase payroll further, but NH just had a very bad offseason (so far) and didn’t get things done.

      Mike Napoli is not even worth discussing. Pirates would never pay $17+m a year for ANYONE, let alone Mike Napoli. Of course it would be a good acquisition, but I’m more interested in discussing how the Pirates could improve while using the current model they’ve been operating under. Talking about anything else is a waste of time because right or wrong, it will never happen while Nutting is in charge.

      Pirates opening day payroll was $66m last year. They added payroll after the all-star break.

      Good post though. Thanks.

  • Frank Micko

    Yeah..
    AJ was initially asked to take a 50% pay cut to work 5hrs farther from home with a wife that doesn’t fly.

    While only hitting .260, Morneau also had the team’s 2nd highest On Base Percentage.

    Gaby can definitely hit lefties. Tell me though. How many left handed starters played for in our division last year?

    Nothing Ventured. Nutting gained although Tony will still apparently suck up to you.

    • Tony Canella

      Good points Frank. Especially on Morneau’s OBP.

      AJ was asked to a 50% pay cut. So what. It’s called a negotiation. Normally the buyer starts low, the seller starts high, and if there’s mutual interest, they usually meet somewhere in the middle. The problem was, AJ’s wittle feewings got hurt so he exited the process all together which prompted NH to go out and get another arm. He’ll pitch 4.0+ ERA this year.and spend ample time on the IR. Mark my words.

      Good point on the OBP. But again, Morneau’s not a platoon option and a platoon is what would make the most sense right now based on Gaby’s production last year.

      Granted, only a handful of starting pitchers (currently) are LH in the NL Central. But Jay Bruce had 203 AB’s against lefty’s last year. Good for 14th in the MLB’s. So don’t tell me there’s not opportunity to hit left handers in the NL Central.

      And I will judge a team on perfomance not payroll. What do I care how much he profits. We were 5 wins from the WS last year. I’ll take that over $150m dollar payroll any day. Most fans would.

      Thanks for the post.

  • Dan

    Good call on Morneau…..not.