P2Daily: Pressure on the Pirates to Spend in the New MLB CBA?

The Pittsburgh Pirates might have some pressure on them to spend going forward.

Dan Szymborski reports a detail of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that has been overlooked:

The example Szymborski shares above is with $70 million in revenue sharing pool proceeds for the Marlins. Under the new system, they’d have to show how they spent $105 million, rather than the previous system, where the amount would be $87.5 million. The difference in this example is two mid-range free agents, or one year of a big free agent signing.

There was some further discussion on what those amounts would be.

MLB has brought in a lot in national television revenue in recent years. If the $60 million per team amount from Eugene Freedman is correct, that means a team like the Pirates would need to demonstrate $90 million in spending under the new system.

This might not go into effect for the 2022 season, although that might not prevent the Pirates from facing another grievance with their $40 million payroll range this year.

The problem with teams demonstrating a specific revenue amount is that it would be very easy for teams to manipulate those numbers. In the example above, I attributed the difference between the old 25% system and the current 50% system, saying the Marlins had $17.5 million extra now to spend on players. That’s the ideal theory.

The reality is that, under the old system, the Marlins might have been able to justify up to $105 million, but only needed to justify up to $87.5 million.

The Pirates this year might have a $40 million payroll, but they can probably find $50 million more in other baseball-related expenses throughout their organization, especially when you get to minor league operations. That would cover their requirement under the new system, if the revenue sharing was $60 million.

Even though this makes it more likely that teams need to justify their spending, it doesn’t make it more likely that teams will be forced to spend more. It’s very easy for a rebuilding team like the Pirates to justify why they aren’t spending payroll at the moment, and that they will make up that spending down the line.

I think the Pirates absolutely will spend a lot more on this team when they are contending. The question is whether they spent over the required amount in all years combined — making up for the low years with higher years while they are contenders.

The last time the Pirates were contenders, we saw them take a single-year budget approach, with a refusal for deficit spending in any year. They did spend money when they were contenders. They continued increasing payroll in 2016 and 2017, albeit with bad personnel decisions. They spent to their budget and wasted money in some losing seasons that could have been better used in winning seasons.

Their spending approach right now indicates they might be reversing course and going for a more exponential approach — saving money from this season to spend when they are contenders. That’s just speculation, and I wouldn’t bank on that to actually happen to a clear and satisfying result to the fans, or to the MLBPA.

I just don’t think Bob Nutting will face any serious pressure, regardless of what the Pirates spend.

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