The Pittsburgh Pirates are poised to make another round of franchise history this offseason when it comes to player contracts. After handing out record-setting extensions in back-to-back seasons to Ke'Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds, the Pirates appear ready to shatter their mark for the biggest free-agent deal in the upcoming offseason.
The Pirates' spending under owner Bob Nutting has been inconsistent at best. While the team has recently handed out record contracts to homegrown players, Nutting has faced criticism in the past for not spending enough on payroll. The Pirates have typically had one of the lowest payrolls in baseball under his ownership. If Nutting is serious about building a contender, he will need to continue boosting spending and back up his talk with more action.
With a projected 2024 payroll projected to be around $20-30 million less than this past season, it's imperative that Nutting open his checkbook this offseason. The Pirates exceeded expectations in 2022, and signing a top free agent would show that Nutting is committed to building on that momentum. The team has a strong young core but needs to complement it with established veterans.
The previous record for the largest free agent contract was the 3-year, $39 million pact given to Francisco Liriano before the 2015 season - an average annual value of just $13 million. While substantial at the time, that type of contract value pales in comparison to the exploding free agent market across MLB.
The Pirates have not shied away from handing out long-term commitments lately, meaning they could secure one of the marquee free agents well into their 30s. The Pirates should be ready to hand out the largest free agent contract in franchise history this offseason. After extending young stars, pressure is on owner Bob Nutting to increase spending again. With a lower 2024 payroll projected, Nutting needs to prove his commitment to building a contender
After showing a willingness to spend and retain homegrown stars, the Pirates appear ready to complement that strategy with a free-agent splash. Don't be surprised if Pittsburgh sets more franchise records and makes one of the most noteworthy signings of the offseason as they continue an aggressive team-building process. Nutting cannot revert to his old frugal ways if the Pirates want to get to the next level. The coming offseason provides the perfect opportunity for him to prove he is ready to take the necessary steps to make Pittsburgh a consistent contender again.