Frank Coonelly: Pirates Plan Payroll Increase, Ticket “Price Adjustments”

PNC Park Pirates Fans
Not surprisingly, the price to see a game at PNC Park is expected to go up next year. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The Pirates plan to increase their Major League payroll next season, team president Frank Coonelly told Pirates Prospects.

The team has raised overall salary for its MLB players by about $9 million per year each of the last three years, according to a “strategic plan” for payroll Coonelly discussed in a one-on-one interview.

“Our plans that we’ve put in place a year, two years ago, have us showing another meaningful increase in 2014,” Coonelly said.

The Pirates have guaranteed $42.45 million in contracts next season including options for Pedro Alvarez and Wandy Rodriguez, according to our estimates. We estimate the Pirates will spend about $71.4 million on this year’s Major League team.

The payroll would include salary increases for players like Neil Walker, Vin Mazzaro and Mark Melancon entering arbitration years for the first time, as well as current arbitration-eligible players like Gaby Sanchez, Garrett Jones and Charlie Morton due for a pay raise in 2014.

Break Out the Price Chart

PNC Park
This view will be a bit more pricey over the next few seasons. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Pittsburgh’s expected payroll increase would correspond with the team taking in its share of a more lucrative national television contract, along with expecting to receive more money from ticket sales, in prices and attendance.

“We’re gonna lay out a plan to incrementally get ourselves back towards where we need to be, competitive with the Cincinnati’s, the Milwaukee’s, the St. Louis’ of the world,” Coonelly said. “Going into 2014, we’ll continue that path, which is not large jumps, but moving us towards our industry foes.”

In short: you will almost certainly see higher seat prices at PNC Park next season, which should not be surprising in a year following a pennant race. Coonelly stressed that fans who purchase a 20-game, half-season or full season ticket plan will receive a “larger discount relative to the individual game buyer.” But the cost to fans is expected to go up.

Coonelly said the Pirates remain 26th of the league’s 30 teams in average cost to see a game, feels it is very difficult to be competitive with some of MLB’s lowest ticket prices and that the team did not make any significant “price adjustments” between PNC Park’s opening in 2001 and 2011.

“It took us 10 years to dig this hole,” Coonelly said. “And there are many reasons why we dug it for 10 years, some of which I was involved with, some decisions made I was involved with, some that I wasn’t involved with.”

He does not expect massive price hikes right away, though.

“We’re not going to try to get to where we need to get to in one year,” Coonelly said.

Five other important points:

  • Coonelly projects the Pirates to sell close to 2.3-million tickets in 2013, approaching the record of 2,464,870 from PNC Park’s inaugural season (which he expects they will break next year). He is also confident that fans this season will beat the stadium record of 19 sellouts set that year. The team has already sold more tickets than it did all of last year, he said.
  • The season ticket base grew “by over 15 percent” last offseason, and the Pirates will look for it to continue to increase.
  • PNC Park will not add temporary seats for playoff games. “Our footprint is what it is,” Coonelly said. “And we want our fans to be comfortable.”
  • The Pirates are not planning to expand the crowded main concourse. Instead, they are looking at improvements similar to right field’s Budweiser Bowtie Bar, in which the concourse went “over the Riverwalk a little further than it was” to make room for the new drinking area.
  • Coonelly could not project how much revenue the Pirates would receive from each playoff game in which they play. “Too many variables” exist, he said. Those include: who the Pirates play (because Dodger Stadium would draw a larger gate than Great American Ball Park), other team’s postseason prices and how many games are played by every team. Under the CBA, much of the ticket revenue goes into a “players’ pool.”

Here’s how it works: the players’ pool consists of 50 percent of the gate receipts from the Wild Card Round, plus 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first three games of each division series, the first four games of each championship series and the first four games of the World Series.

And this is what the players get from that pool of ticket sales, according to the union —

  1. World Series-winning team: 36 percent
  2. World Series loser: 24 percent
  3. League Championship Series losers (two teams): 12 percent each
  4. Division Series losers (four teams): 3.25 percent each
  5. Wild Card game losers (two teams): 1.5 percent each

Going deep into the postseason would not just be lucrative for Pirates’ ownership but also the players. Last year each full-share player on the Wild-Card-losing Atlanta Braves earned about $19,600, which each one on the World Champion San Francisco Giants earned about $377,000.

Nice cash if you can win it.

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Brett of Indy

It is a shame that they indicating an increase in salaries and ticket prices in the same discussion, when Frank knows that the additional $25M is coming and that frankly everyone one will be going in salaries. What is unfortunate is that the increased revenue sharing, two stratight years of drawing more than 2M fans, along with increased cable contracts is not enough to keep ticket prices sustained. Congratulations, it will now cost you more to get in, so you can drink one of their $7.50 beers. When is enough, enough?

Bryan Graham

$7.50 for a beer? Maybe some, but the Yuengling pounders were going for $10.50 each at the game I was at lol.


I think the front office is going to make a legitimate offer for Abreu this winter.

pirate fan

Just wanted to say something, I want to trade for Morneau. Here is my take on the offseason. First thing we need is to resign SOME of our free agents… That is Burnett, Byrd, Buck, and Morneau (if we get him… Only other need I see is shortstop.. I like Stephen Drew. Our bench would be strong (Jones, Gaby, Buck, Mercer, and Tabata.) We have options for pitching. We will have Liriano, Burnett (if we resign him.) Locke, and Cole.. The last spot is Wandy or Morton.. If Wandy is healthy, I give it to him. In the bullpen, we have Grilli, Melancon, Wilson, Watson, Gomez, and Morris. Mazzaro is arb eligible. I look for us to trade him.. Possibly for a shortstop, along with Morton. How about Morton and Mazzaro (with prospects) to the Angels for Erik Aybar? Have the Angels pick up some $$$. But, of course, this is only if I’m GM.


Over the past three years, Drew has hit .241 with a slugging pct of only .392. Also he’s not a great fielder, he will be 31 on opening day, and has Scott Boras as an agent. Not a great combination – and not an upgrade over Mercer.

Jeremy J Stein

I wouldn’t bother trying to resign Byrd, Buck and/or Morneau (if the Pirates got him). Well, Morneau maybe, but that would be assuming he would want to resign.
Byrd is a candidate to regress next year and the Pirates will have Polanco mid 2014.
Buck is a backup. The Pirates will have two other backups next year with McKenry and Sanchez. Not sure where Buck would fit in. I guess he could replace McKenry, but backup catcher isn’t going to have a big impact on a team with Martin as the starter, so why not keep the cheap McKenrey or have Sanchez learn from Martin.
Good shortstops are hard to find these days, not sure why the Angles would part with Aybar. I guess it’s nice to dream though.
Drew would be very interesting. Mercer is then the backup and subs for Walker against lefties.

Stephen Brooks

Likely to be a fair bit of dead money coming off the books as well – Karstens, McDonald, Inge and Jonathan Sanchez are still making nearly 8 million combined (the Dodgers are only paying a prorated share of Sanchez’ minor league salary, which is negligible).

Jones probably won’t be re-signed, so there’s 4.5 more.

That’s in addition to Barmes’ 5.5 and AJ’s net 8, and if you want to count the 1 million owed to Buck, all the better (to make it simple, I applied the cash from New York to cover Byrd’s salary).

26-27 million off the books. That more than offsets the arb increases for Walker, Gaby, Morton, Melancon and Mazzaro, as well as the Martin, Cutch, Tabata, Grilli and Liriano bumps. Wandy’s option year is actually less expensive net for the Bucs (7.5) than his 2013 net (8.5).

I’m figuring Snider won’t be offerred arbitration. With Tabata’s guarantee and Lambo and Polanco waiting in the wings, why would you offer it, right?

By my back of the envelope calculations, it looks like the Bucs will start at about 7-8 million below the current payroll before adding players. They’ll need a 1B, but honestly that’s about it. T Sanchez slides into the backup catcher spot; d”Arnaud could be the backup SS to replace Barmes; and Lambo takes Snider’s spot. Everything else is more or less set.

Jeremy J Stein

Of course we can assume the Pirates won’t give the backup SS spot to d’Arnaud and will sign a FA backup SS for anywhere from 1 to 5 million.
I wonder what the 1B market looks like next year. If it’s not so good, the Pirates could bring back Jones for 6.5 M or whatever he’ll be due. Granted that would be a huge overpayment for a guy who may continue to decline, but who knows, maybe he might bounce back a little bit. I’m not saying the Pirates should keep Jones, just saying they might have to if a better option isn’t available on the FA market. I guess there is the Jose Abreau possibility.

Stephen Brooks

1B free agent market: Napoli, Corey Hart, Loney, Morneau and Moss are the headliners. I guess you could play Morse at 1B as well. He played there for Washington.

Jones would be at the bottom of that tier, along with Morneau. IMHO no reason to take him to arbitration – you could cut him loose and try to sign him as a FA for less.


MLBTraderumors has the following 1B free agents currently listed for after this season (obviously subject to a lot of change):

Jeff Baker (33)
Corey Hart (32)
Todd Helton (40)
Mike Napoli (32)
Paul Konerko (38)
Casey Kotchman (31)
Adam Lind (30) – $7MM club option with a $2MM buyout
James Loney (30)
Kendrys Morales (30)
Justin Morneau (33)
Mike Morse (32)
Lyle Overbay (37)
Carlos Pena (36)
Mark Reynolds (30)
Kevin Youkilis (35)


Is there official data on playoff revenue for teams or is all proprietary, only thing I have seen is estimates by Wendy Thurm and those are admittedly over-estimates. I am just curious that of how winning/playoffs effects revenue streams and payroll . (Mainly b/c I hate arguments about how taking on additional salary will be offset by expected future revenue)


In a interview during spring training, Coonelly said most of the 25 million in new TV money will go into payroll….so we should see a 90+ million dollar payroll next year. I will believe it when I see it.


Yes, because the Nutting/FC/NH front office should be distrusted, they haven’t done anything the exact way they said they would over the last 6 years [sarcasm].

McClatchy moved on and Littlefield was fired a long time ago, let it go.

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