It’s that time of year again—for the fourth season on this site I’ll be presenting my Opening Day payroll calculation.
With pre-arbitration salaries now reported, the only loose thread right now would be the giant Bryan Reynolds’ extension cloud hanging over everything; however, all reporting seems to indicate his 2023 won’t change if an extension is signed, so I don’t think we’ll see any changes there anyway.
For a more in-depth, line-by-line breakdown, check out (and save) my payroll tracker that I’ll keep updated throughout the season. As a matter of practicality, my estimates assume that every transaction will be the last; however, we know that’s not the case. Moves will happen all season, and I’ll be tracking every one and their effect on the final figure.
Guaranteed Salaries: $71,752,500
For a second year in a row Ke’Bryan Hayes holds the honor of being the team’s highest paid player; however, there is a new player in the number two spot.
After a relative free agent spending spree this winter—$30,375,000, the most since the 2016-17 offseason when the team signed Iván Nova and Daniel Hudson—Rich Hill surpasses Reynolds (for now, at least) for second on the team.
Hill joins a solid cast of veterans fortifying the team, who along with Ji Man Choi make up $51,775,000 of this total. The remaining arbitration class—Choi not included—total $7,487,500, while the rest of the difference is made up of pre-arbitration salaries.
As I always like to point out, opening day figures can be slightly inflated due to players starting on the injured list. Three players ended up there—JT Brubaker, Jarlín García, and Robert Stephenson—and while an injured player’s salary still counts against the total, they also need replaced with another player making a major league salary.
Of course, Stephenson could come back when his 15 days are up and payroll would go down roughly $500,000, but that full replacement salary will still be baked into the starting figure. The longer Brubaker or García stay on the IL, the less volatile those swings will be.
In total, this factors in two long-term contracts, six free agent contracts, five deals to avoid arbitration, and seventeen agreement/renewals.
Minor League Salary: $1,643,342
I covered this extensively last week, but this is the total allocated for players not on the active roster, with twelve players accounting for the total.
Amounts range from $261,538 (Yerry De Los Santos) to $58,800 (Mike Burrows, Endy Rodriguez, Colin Selby, and Jared Triolo).
Outright Assignments: $1,642,400
As has been covered here extensively this offseaon, Miguel Andújar signed a guaranteed contract at the tender deadline to avoid the arbitration process completely, guaranteeing his salary in full for 2023. So, despite being outrighted to the minors, his contract is still on the books.
Also, I’ve included Ryan Vilade here, as he was designated for assignment before the season opened. Vilade ended up being outrighted, so in season payroll won’t change at all based on this transaction.
2023 Payroll Projection: $75,038,242
Looking back, this is the highest opening day figure the club has had since 2019, when they started at over $79 million.
In addition to the figure above, I calculated the Collective Balance Tax payroll—just as teams have both—which started at $91,454,909. This includes an estimated $16 million in player benefits, as well as the Pirates’ $1.67 million share of the pre-arbitration bonus pool.
You can find these totals in the payroll spreadsheets as well, and I will be tracking both of these figures as the season progresses.
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.
Is today reynolds extension day? Or has the day my mind arbitrarily decided he will be extended just like any other lol
I’m personally disgusted that my first reaction to the reported payroll figure of $75 million and change is, “not too bad.”
It’s embarrassingly low by any comparable measure. This isn’t even debatable at this point. It’s just a fact.
Now I’m not one to overhype payroll as an end all be all towards winning, but most Pirates fans do believe there’s a direct correlation, and it sure would be nice to believe the Owner cares enough about his business to make his customers think he cares about them. At least a little bit.
Announcing today they have worked out an extension with Reynolds sure would be a great way to do this on a day which promises to be uplifting with Burnett, Martin, and Walker playing a part in pre-game festivities, and Cutch wearing the black and gold at PNC Park again.
Let’s Go Bucs!
Casual pirates fans want a winning baseball team. Money spent on the team doesn’t matter if they are losing. You can look back at previous seasons and see that, like 2016.
Ethan: Thank you, and I was just thinking of you. Just got around to reading the April Edition of Baseball America and one of my favorite writers, JJ Cooper. His contribution in April was entitled “A Time Of Transition” and a sub-heading of “Questions arise as regional sports networks give way to direct-to-consumer offerings”. He describes the changes and then exposes some issues that could arise between the Revenue Makers and the Revenue Takers.
My first thought was this fits your expertise, especially in the area that Cooper describes the added pressure for owners to field a quality team quicker than the Pirates rebuild has taken, or at the present time, the Oakland A’s.
How about they negotiate a national streaming deal with Amazon or Apple and allocate revenues out to teams based on viewership share per team? That would incentivize Owners to put out a winning product.
File this under, Pipe Dreams.
Don’t be too sure about that. The pressure is building from any number of angles – angles that did not exist or were ignored before the RSN’s started to fall apart. The gravy train that kept everyone quiet, or fat and happy which I prefer, does not run anymore.
The good thing is that the Pirates have started to place prospects in MLB – Suwinski, Contreras, Cruz, Mitchell, Castro, and Ortiz in 2022. This year Ji-Hwan Bae, Canaan Smith-Njigba, and Johan Oviedo have already been added, with Endy Rodriguez, Travis Swaggerty, and one or two others possibly added by August.
A sincere attempt to work some key extensions would go a long way toward putting this franchise on the fast track to being competitive in a year or two. Oh, and a new Manager by mid-season!