For the holiday season, it was requested of me to keep this “light and simple”.
Well, I’ve never been very good at light and simple, but we thought a quick mid-offseason payroll update would do just the trick to yuletide you over.
Hop in the way back machine, and my initial estimate going into 2023 sat at $44,512,660. Of course, as I’ve explained many times, that was nothing but a baseline, and the expectation was that figure would go up as the offseason moved along.
Maybe not to the satisfaction of many fans, but it certainly has.
It’s not as if the Pirates haven’t been busy. As of Fridays writing, they have designated nine players for assignment since the offseason began, outrighted seven, made five trades, lost five to waivers, claimed four, while signing/agreeing with the same amount of free agents.
In total, the team started the offseason with 45 players, 17 of which are gone, with 13 (out of 41) new to the roster.
But what about the payroll?
The free agent signings obviously are the biggest driver to the current increase, as $17,375,000 has been committed in free agency (23rd out of 30, by my count, with two teams—the Brewers and Marlins—still off the board).
The acquisition of Ji-Man Choi did some damage, even though his $4.5 million price tag is still theoretical. That’s obviously offset some by offloading Kevin Newman and his $2.8 million arbitration figure to the Cincinnati Reds.
Of course, there’s still lots of time until Spring Training begins in February, and the season starts at the end of March, meaning plenty of opportunity for more moves. More is bound to happen, as the team is lacking a backup catcher and are particularly thin on backup middle infielders, especially shortstop.
On Wednesday, Ben Cherington stated that the team would like to add another starting pitcher and position player, so who knows what else may be up the team’s sleeve as far as moves go.
For now, projected payroll has surpassed $60 million—see below for the specific figures—right in line with last season.
A paltry figure, no doubt, but one that could still technically go up as we continue through the offseason.
Offseason Calendar Update
No updates here as of this week
Pirates Payroll Updates
—The team acquired an old friend, trading minor league pitcher Nick Garcia to the Colorado Rockies for Connor Joe. To make room on the roster, Nick Mears was designated for assignment.
I count Joe at 1.135 years of service, meaning he has five years of contractual control remaining, but he would be on track for Super 2, meaning 2023 would be his last year at the minimum. He also has two options remaining after using one in 2021.
Joe slots in as the starting right fielder in my theoretical lineup, moving Travis Swaggerty to Triple-A. As I expected, Mears was claimed, so he’ll no longer be on the books.
In total, payroll went down $158,535. Maybe only interesting to me, but since Joe was up all last season, he has quite a high minor league split ($351,000), meaning he’ll make more than most players if he gets optioned to the minors during the season.
—After the team officially signed Austin Hedges, they designated Diego Castillo for assignment. Subsequently, Castillo was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
I had projected Ryan Vilade as the corresponding move, so I just had to do some simple adjustments, after which payroll went down $231,682.
—For 2023, the payroll estimate stands at $60,776,849 for the Labor Relations Department, while it’s $77,193,516 for CBT purposes.
A longtime Pirates Prospects reader, Ethan has been covering payroll, transactions, and rules in-depth since 2018 and dabbling in these topics for as long as he can remember. He started writing about the Pirates at The Point of Pittsburgh before moving over to Pirates Prospects at the start of the 2019 season.
Always a lover of numbers and finding an answer, Ethan much prefers diving into these topics over what’s actually happening on the field. These under and often incorrectly covered topics are truly his passion, and he does his best to educate fans on subjects they may not always understand, but are important nonetheless.
When he’s not updating his beloved spreadsheets, Ethan works full-time as an accountant, while being a dad to two young daughters and watching too many movies and TV shows at night.