The Pittsburgh Pirates had the lowest payroll heading into Spring Training back in March. Not much has changed with the payroll since then.
If you are not a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates, but happen to be watching one of their games with a group of their fans, one way to break the ice and quickly learn about the club is to ask about the team’s payroll. It is one of the most sensitive and talked about topics when it comes to the Buccos. The team’s payroll is always in the bottom half the league and even during the winning years, the organization could not spend enough to satisfy a hungry fanbase.
The team has a new Front Office and in their first year they have put together a roster that is made up of three types of players: Arbitration year one, pre-arb (around league minimum), or short-term cheap contracts. The only player that has an actual contract extension with the team is Gregory Polanco. With all that being said, the team was rolling into the season with the second-lowest payroll in baseball. The exact number was hard to come by as many sites had different numbers. Many of the issues are due to former players and/or players who are on the restricted list, and how their money does/does not count toward the actual number.
Regardless, the payroll was estimated to be about $58-62 million, which was good for the lowest in the National League. The Baltimore Orioles were the only team that had a lower payroll. That was the number for the Pittsburgh Pirates entering Spring Training and the Bucs have not added anyone to change that number.
Well, that is not entirely true. Due to the change in the season and the agreement between Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association, the players are receiving a prorated salary for the year. Essentially, the Pittsburgh Pirates payroll for the 2020 season is actually about $24.7 million dollars, or about a third of their original payroll.
This does not mean they will have more money to spend next year, as the whole reason they prorated salaries was with the expectation of the MLB making less money. Still, it is crazy to see such a low number. Mookie Betts just signed a deal worth $365 million dollars and the Pittsburgh Pirates are paying their whole roster $25 million for the season.
Baseball is in dire need of an economic change. Luckily for the Pittsburgh Pirates fans, it seems a dialogue has started between the two sides about that, and while the players might not like, the game itself may need an economic change to survive.
With that being said, the payroll is the second-lowest in baseball. The team has a completely new direction with Ben Cherington, Travis Williams, and Derek Shelton. This team was left with a pretty thin cupboard. While it would have been great to see a new Front Office come in and make some aggressive moves, the reality is that Pittsburgh Pirates will not operate in that way, at least for now.
The team has a lot of youth on it and pieces that are yet to come. With a new staff in place, who are still getting to know the talent in the organization, why spend? Everyone knows they are years away from contending and adding one or two free agents does not change the outlook. This is not something that can be fixed overnight or through free agency. Even big market teams do not act in this way anymore. Look at the Cubs, the Dodgers, and Astros, they had some pretty bad years before being good.
Yes, there is and should be a distrust by Pittsburgh Pirates fans. However, be patient with the new Front Office. The team is in very good hands with Ben Cherington and the people he has brought in to help identify and develop talent. Once they can get their top prospects developed and to the major league level, then will be the time to spend. There have been reports that the Nutting’s were unhappy with the state of the franchise after last season. If Ben Cherington’s plan works and he gets the right pieces in place, Nutting needs to prove he really wants to win.