The season is almost upon us and come this time next week, I’ll be breaking down the opening day payroll for the Pittsburgh Pirates. With that in mind, I wanted to cover something you won’t hear about anywhere else—minor league splits.
As I detailed when I covered optional assignments, pre-arbitration players typically sign split contracts, which pay different rates for players’ time in the majors versus their time in the minors. While many know and understand what a player is making in the majors, not many understand or discuss a player’s minor league pay.
Other payroll sources like Spotrac and Roster Resource take these minor league expenses into account, as all players on the 40-man roster are included in payroll calculations. They often use an estimate that simply blankets every minor league player—but not around here.
Per the Basic Agreement, minor league rates are to be set at fifty percent of a player’s total compensation—major and minor league—from the prior season, or the minimum, whichever is greater. For 2023, the minimum was agreed to $58,800 for players signing their first contract (think Endy Rodriguez) or $117,400 for players signing their second contract or with prior Major League service (Liover Peguero, for example).
Obviously, trying to calculate this for every player in the league would be a massive endeavor, which is likely why an estimate is often tacked on at the end. However, it’s much easier for me to figure out with fewer players to track, along with having a player’s total compensation as a part of what I do already.
Therefore, I thought it would be enlightening to share the minor league rates I’ll be using this season to calculate payroll expense for a player’s time in the minors. Of course, these are just estimates, as I don’t know what the split amounts will be exactly, but using these estimates makes more sense to me than just tacking on a few million dollars at the end of the season for minor league pay, as other sites do.
This list will only include players who the club renewed with their reservation rights—those they tendered contracts. A player who doesn’t have enough service to have yet reach arbitration, but was brought in on a minor league contract—think Tyler Heineman—will likely have agreed to a different minor league rate in their contract than the fifty percent figure cited above. For example, Heineman will be making $150,000 in the minors if selected and subsequently optioned, whereas it would have been $339,088 had he been tendered.
I’ll highlight one example for anyone who still may not understand that calculation in the form of a player that will be easy to understand—Connor Joe.
Last season, Joe spent the entire season in the majors with a payrate of $702,000. As a player who still has options, Joe could theoretically see the minors this season. If he does, he will be paid at a rate of $351,000—fifty percent of his total compensation from 2022.
With that in mind, here’s a list of the rest of the pre-arbitration players currently on the Pirates roster:
Ji Hwan Bae – $117,400
David Bednar – $357,500
Mike Burrows – $58,800
Rodolfo Castro – $190,165
Roansy Contreras – $227,502
Wil Crowe – $357,500
Oneil Cruz – $232,372
Chase De Jong – $403,846
Yerry De Los Santos – $261,538
Jose Hernandez* – $117,400
Colin Holderman – $251,169
Connor Joe – $351,000
Max Kranick – $264,839
Tucupita Marcano – $196,658
Mark Mathias – $186,824
Cal Mitchell – $193,621
Dauri Moreta – $209,963
Luis Ortiz – $117,400
Johan Oviedo – $215,967
Liover Peguero – $117,400
Yohan Ramirez – $217,301
Endy Rodriguez – $58,800
Colin Selby – $58,800
Canaan Smith-Njigba – $231,682
Jack Suwinski – $244,015
Travis Swaggerty – $117,400
Jared Triolo – $58,800
Ryan Vilade – $117,400
Pirates Payroll Updates
—With the news that Robert Stephenson was likely to start the season on the IL, I replaced his spot in the bullpen with Dauri Moreta, which raised the estimate by $515,037.
—For 2023, the payroll estimate stands at $74,253,908 for the Labor Relations Department, while it’s $90,670,575 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.
A 20-year-old makes the Cardinals roster now a 21-year-old makes the Yankees roster, who is the youngest Pirate on the major league roster??
Contreras will be in his age 23 season. Bae, Castro, and Cruz will all be in their age 24 seasons. All 4 will earn their first year of MLB Service in 2023. Endy Rodriguez will be in his age 23 season when he comes up.
Both Volpe and Walker had over 400 AB’s above the A+ level in 2022. Our best was Endy Rodriguez who only had about 140 AB above A+.
BTW, Thank you Ethan for an excellent piece – very informative. So would we really want to hear that a guy like Owings has decided to take the offer and go to AAA? No response required.
Putting it in perspective if they lived in West Virginia where upper class is $53,000 yearly they’d be doing pretty darn good.
Upper class is $53K? Is this intended as a dig against my state?
Wasn’t enthused about Crowe to begin with. Becoming less enthused every time he pitches.
On a major league team, he’d be on the bubble at best. On the Pirates he gets tenure.
Boy, we sure got a great return on that Bell deal.
Certainly not a great return but think about it from the flip side for a minute. If the Pirates were to trade a marginal relief pitcher and a lottery ticket prospects for a position player with no defensive value and an OPS under 700 what would the reaction of the fan base be? I’m not sure but man I can’t imagine we’d all be calling it a massive steal.
You can’t imagine calling it a steal because you tainted his stats using Bell’s only down year, 195 covid AB’s Bell’s OPS was .936 year before and over.800 for career at the time and still is
No defensive value? JB was before during and currently over 800 OPS
That was salary relief. Period.
No doubt and no relief yesterday from the
Xmas Eve package of 2020
BC wanted to do something nice for Nut over the holidays
celebrating 1 year together
Nut goes to bed smiling again
Will he be released by Aug 1? My guess is a resounding YES!