Typically, when a smaller market team starts increasing their payroll, it is considered to be a positive amongst the fanbase. After all, spending more money generally means that those talented players, who have so often been traded away once they become too expensive, are now able to remain with that team. It is, typically, a sign of hope for the future.
That would certainly seem to be the case for the Pittsburgh Pirates, as they are projected to have a payroll over $90 Million for the first time in franchise history. That number would mean that the Pirates have almost tripled their payroll since the beginning of the 2009 season, when the team had a payroll of $34.94 Million. Players like Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte have been signed to long term extensions. It is certainly great to see.
Yet, there is another side of the coin to the benefits of having a higher payroll. The Pirates are obviously not the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers. While those teams may be able to absorb a bad contract or, in the case of the Yankees, five or six, even one mistake in free agency could hamstring the Pirates for years to come.
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There is also the concern about increased ticket prices. In order to afford this increased payroll, the Pittsburgh Pirates started to raise ticket prices before the 2012 season. While the Pirates have been successful over the past two seasons, even setting an attendance record last season, one bad season could well have disastrous effects at the ticket window. After all, who wants to spend more to see a mediocre product?
However, with the way that the Pirates are trending, that may not be much of a concern. The Pirates have made numerous smart decisions, and have typically avoided spending prodigiously in free agency. By investing that money into extending their own players, the Pirates may be able to avoid those albatross contracts and remain competitive for years to come.
Increased payroll, especially if that results in a sudden increase in spending during free agency, can be a double edged sword. Fortunately, the Pittsburgh Pirates seem to have a plan in place to avoid the potential pitfalls that a higher payroll can potentially bring.
For years, we have wanted the Pittsburgh Pirates to increase their payroll, locking in their young players to contract extensions and to sign the free agents needed to supplement their roster. Now, it is a matter of spending wisely. Neil Huntington and the Pirates may be able to do just that.