After laying a baseline for the 2023 payroll last week, as promised, I am going to look at how the team could spend their way to $100 million next season.
As I’m about to illustrate, it’s a tall task, thus an extremely unlikely one. I’m going to try and at least be realistic—no Jacob deGrom or Aaron Judge signings here—while also trying to avoid marrying myself to certain names. I say that because I’m not great with statistical breakdowns, and while someone may have a recognizable name, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re always the best choice.
It also bears mentioning that we don’t exactly know what the market will look like this offseason. Historically, teams have been more willing to spend coming out of new labor deals, with the foreseeable future locked down; however, I’m not sure we can use last offseason as a good barometer either, as teams were throwing money around, in part, simply so they could say they were. Will spending come down? It’s yet to be seen, but I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if it did.
While saying all that, we still have to acknowledge that this would take A LOT of work to become a reality, so actual signings would need to take place. This isn’t something we’re accustomed to as followers of the Pittsburgh Pirates, so all of it is going to look foreign. However, jumping from $40 million to $100 million in one offseason would be just that, so it’s going to feel ludicrous or uncomfortable, no matter what.
With the qualifiers out of the way, let’s get going.
Sign Joey Gallo to a one-year, prove it deal
Gallo hasn’t exactly been his normal self since leaving Texas, so I’m imagining the Pirates giving him the opportunity to prove that he’s still one of the premiere power threats in the game. Given that this would be a one-year deal and he would need some convincing to bounce back in Pittsburgh—an assumption for the rest of the way—I’m picturing this being at least in the $20 million range, much like Noah Syndergaard to the Los Angeles Angels last offseason.
Bring Gallo in and let him mash for a team that is in need of offense. I considered letting him do that at designated hitter, but Gallo has proven to be good enough in the field in the past that I’ll let him take a spot in the corner outfield for now. No two of the many prospects given the opportunity have taken hold of the corners at this point, and the reason of this exercise is to see the Pirates get better, so this stopgap isn’t really holding anyone back.
As for DH, I decided to fill that opening with…
Sign Trey Mancini
Familiar with rebuilds, Mancini could provide the team with solid veteran leadership, while hopefully producing with a solid bat in the process. Let him play some first too, but this is largely to fill the DH spot.
I slotted him in with an $8 million salary—for the most part, I’m avoiding naming specific terms (years and totals) for deals, as I’m not trying to be Nostradamus here—which seems reasonable for a veteran, corner bat.
Fortify the pitching staff
This needs to happen whether the Pirates plan on hitting $100 million or not, but I was able to go hog wild here, as there was lots of room to spend.
I started with a pitcher they could (hopefully) place at the front of the staff, and I projected that costing $10 million to start. I know that’s not going to get top-of-the-market performance, but I am hoping it would secure one of the better pitchers available: Sean Manaea, Luis Severino, Michael Wacha, Taijuan Walker, Martín Pérez, Zach Eflin, Dylan Bundy, or Mike Clevinger.
When I reached the end of my projecting, I was still short, so I added another $5 million pitcher to the group. Maybe that’s a signing, maybe it’s a trade, but whatever it is, this team needs pitching, so adding arms to the pool isn’t going to hurt.
I then slotted in two bullpen signings starting at $7 and $5 million. Seven million seems reasonable for a better option on the market—there are just too many names, so don’t ask me to give you one—that could slot in next to a (hopefully) healthy and fresh David Bednar as an option in leverage situations.
Bring back Roberto Pérez
This isn’t necessarily me speaking—I looked at catching options, including Mike Zunino and Gary Sánchez, but the writing seems to be on the wall for a Pérez return, so I figured I would just go with that. I gave him $3 million, which seems fair after an injury shortened season.
Extend Oneil Cruz
Is this something the Pirates actually do? Who knows, but in an effort to pump up the payroll, it’s not all going to be spent externally. Comparable deals (Julio Rodríguez, Michael Harris II to name two) started in the $4-5 million range, so I assigned Cruz a $5 million 2023 salary.
You could save this slot for Bednar or Roansy Contreras, but I just decided to go with Cruz.
Grand Total: $100,184,864
On the flip side, some names had to go in order to find room for all these new players, as will happen. Zack Collins, Bryse Wilson, Yohan Ramirez, Jeremy Beasley, Manny Bañuelos, Peter Solomon, Miguel Yajure: many Pirate fans have grown accustomed to finding reasons to cling to names like this, and while they range in usefulness, the point is to find better players than the ones they have. If that happens, the desire would be that hope can stop being sold in favor of actual progress and production. Of course, that’s never a given, but it’s certainly worth a try.
Obviously, this just ekes us over the desired threshold, so there is even more room to go nuts, if they so choose. This was a lot of action though, so any fan would be happy to see such activity from the Pirates. It would certainly be different and refreshing for many.
Pirates Payroll Updates
—After being designated for assignment last week, Cam Vieaux and Josh VanMeter cleared waivers and were outrighted to Indianapolis.
No changes resulted for Vieaux, but since VanMeter should be being paid his minor league split (an estimated $265,602) after his assignment, payroll goes down $63,351.
Vieaux was slated to be a minor league free agent anyway, but he can now elect free agency after the season, as he has been outrighted twice. The same scenario applies to VanMeter as a player with three plus years of service.
—Diego Castillo was recalled and Hoy Park was optioned in his place.
While the official rules aren’t available to confirm, it was initially reported that players will now receive service if they are optioned after the third day after Labor Day. If true, that means Park continues to accrue service while on option.
Castillo technically enters the Super 2 track (.139 days of service for 2022) after his recall.
Payroll goes down $659.
—The team made a suite of moves surrounding their Tuesday doubleheader, selecting Luis Ortiz, recalling Zack Collins, optioning Tucupita Marcano, and designating Bligh Madris for assignment to make room for Ortiz.
Payroll went down $18,436 as a result of the Marcano option—while Collins has the higher major league salary ($714,000 versus $705,000), Collins has a higher estimated split ($268,987 versus $114,100), explaining the drop.
One day of pay and a higher minor league salary for the rest of the season for Ortiz raised payroll $17,638.
Of note, the details surrounding the return of Ortiz were super interesting, at least for me. Chris Halicke of DK Pittsburgh Sports was on it, as it seems the rules surrounding extra players changed between this season and last—which we wouldn’t have known because THEY STILL AREN’T AVAILABLE!!! Anyway, I digress; in summary, Ortiz was actually optioned after being selected, then recalled, and he apparently has to meet the rule of being down 15-days after option, whereas he typically wouldn’t have. A safe assumption would be he could come back for an injured player, but that isn’t clear either.
It’s a tad confusing, mostly because I don’t have the rules to reference, but I at least wanted to cover it, as it was interesting and new for the few that cared enough to consider it.
—Finally, Eric Stout was recalled for Thursday’s game, while Tyler Beede and Dillon Peters were designated for assignment.
Strictly accounting for Stout, payroll goes up $67,604, while we can’t be sure yet of any changes as a result of the designations.
—Payroll stands at $60,848,625 for the Labor Relations Department, while it’s $73,882,875 for CBT purposes.