Breaking Down the Pirates’ 2018 Opening Day Payroll

The Pirates won’t play their first game of the season until tomorrow, due to today’s rainout. However, their Opening Day roster has been officially set, which allows for the Opening Day payroll to be calculated. The 2018 40-man payroll page has been updated with the final rosters.

The Pirates will be entering the season with an estimated payroll of $83.7 M, although that comes with a few disclaimers. Click the 40-man link to view the details. Here are the usual disclaimers:

**The payroll doesn’t account for in-season moves. The Pirates averaged an increase of about $8 M in-season when they were contenders. Last year they remained about the same level, despite being somewhat sellers at the deadline. The increase during the season comes from calling up new guys throughout the year, claiming players off waivers, or adding players via trade. Unless they unload Josh Harrison, Francisco Cervelli, or other big contract guys, you can probably expect their end of the season payroll to remain around the same level, or go up a few million if they add during the year.

**The Opening Day payroll doesn’t include projected bonuses. I add those throughout the year when they’re reached.

**Jung Ho Kang and Nik Turley are on the chart, but Kang’s full salary is deducted, and Turley’s suspension period is deducted, with both salaries coming out in the credits section.

**I use the 40-man payroll, rather than the 25-man. MLB teams use 40-man numbers, and when you see the official numbers come out at the end of the year, they’re always 40-man numbers. You might think that the minor league salaries drive up the payroll (or at least that’s the common argument). The total of all the minor league guys on the 40-man is $1,056,000. As the season goes on, a lot of those minor leaguers will be called up, at which point they’ll be making major league salaries. I always pro-rate the major league salaries when players don’t play a full season.

**The payroll page is updated whenever a move is made. It also keeps track of option years, service time and contract situations. Keep the page bookmarked throughout the year, or find it under the “Resources” tab at the top of the page. If you want to see long-term contract information, check out the Future Payroll page.

The Pirates are now spending a lot on the amateur side. They had $5.75 M last year on the international side, and went big with their spending. They will have $5.25 M this year, and they are expected to spend up to the limit again. They had a draft bonus pool of just over $10 M last year, and should have the same thing again this year.

The point here is to get a better idea of what the Pirates usually spend overall on players, beyond just payroll. They were just under $97 M last year in payroll at the end of the year, while spending at least $11.5 M in the draft, and $5.75 M in their international pool (assuming they will spend it all, which looks likely, as they keep signing players). That amounts to about $114 M between payroll and amateur expenses.

This year they currently project at just under $100 M when you add in the projected amateur expenses. So the team has about $14-15 M to spend to match last year’s overall totals in those combined categories.

I’m not sure if they will spend that much, as the attendance has gone down considerably over the last year, and the team is in a rebuild or retooling, depending on how you want to classify it. The only way I see them getting close is if the team shows promise this year and looks like a contender in July, or a team that could contend in the next year. At that point, I could see them adding to the team at the deadline (just like they did in 2011 and 2012, before they were serious contenders), either for a rental in 2018, or for someone who can help beyond 2018.