Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pirates Payroll Speculation

The Pittsburgh Pirates have less than four hours before the surge of free agent signings should begin. MLB Trade Rumors covered the Pirates possibilities on October 19th, so the information is now slightly dated. The team has a few holes to fill and many areas which they could improve upon after declining club options for Chris Snyder, Paul Maholm, Ryan Doumit, and Ronny Cedeno.
Pirates Attendance vs. Payroll, 2007-2011
I gathered the attendance and payroll data from Baseball Reference and Cot's Baseball Contracts, respectively. The Buccos attracted more fans this year than they have in the last five years and are reportedly expected to enter 2012 with a payroll above $50 million. This is moderately encouraging as this would be the most they have dedicated to their players' payroll since 2003. I would be more excited if there were more options available on the upcoming free agent market or trading table.

Pirates Current 25-man Roster Projection for 2012, MLB Depth Charts
MLB Depth Charts reports the Pirates should be looking for a catcher, first baseman, shortstop, corner outfielder, and starting pitcher. I mostly agree with them, but think we have enough depth in the outfield. I would prefer a backup third baseman in case Alvarez does not recover from his sophomore slump. The amount of money the Pirates have to throw around this offseason depends upon where you read. Bucs Dugout predicts a minimum of $33.4 million is already allotted to the current roster, Pirates Prospects suggests $30.16 million, and Raise the Jolly Roger estimates $25 million. If I look at the payroll information available on Cot's Baseball Contracts and use MLBTR's projected arbitration salaries, then I come up with $31.99 million.

This means the Pirates management has a little bit of wiggle room to upgrade at least two positions, hopefully four. If the Buccos maintain a payroll above $50 million, then that leaves $18 million or more for the offseason. Let's see what's available and what they can do.
Free Agent Targets: Catcher
Free Agent Targets: First Base
Free Agent Targets: Shortstop
Free Agent Targets: Starting Pitcher
First and foremost, the likelihood of the Pirates signing a caliber player like Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, or C.J. Wilson is extremely unlikely unless they accepted payment in Heinz ketchup or Yuengling. It is also fairly unlikely they will surrender a first round draft pick for a type A free agent.

Doumit could be offered arbitration, though any of my other three suggestions would be a nice change. Sure, his offensive numbers may have been more impressive overall, but he has not been a full-time catcher since 2008 and his eyes creep me out. Any one of these options could cost somewhere around $3 to $8 million.

The Pirates acknowledged their lineup was power deficient in 2011, so it would be wise to select a big bat to play first base. Prince Fielder, Michael Cuddyer, and Pujols are all type A free agents, which should make the other three choices more available. The Chicago Cubs may not let Carlos Pena go if they are unable to sign a replacement for themselves. I would expect the Pirates to devote $6 to 9 million to first base.

Cedeno is gone. If the Pirates offer him arbitration, then it will probably cost them more than his original $3 million club option. If you disregard Jimmy Rollins and Reyes, then everyone but Nick Punto are type B free agents and should cost anywhere from $3 to $10 million.

The Buccos currently have a starting rotation full of right handers with the loss of Maholm, so picking up a lefty for next year is vital. Signing Wilson is extremely unlikely, but one can dream. Mark Buehrle or Edwin Jackson would be great additions to an otherwise inexperienced staff, but both are type B free agents and will probably be on the expensive side, possibly $8 to $15 million. Chris Capuano and Jeff Francis would be interesting options, hopefully on the more affordable side, maybe $4 to $8 million.

Pirates 2012 Payroll Estimate
In my fantasy world, the Pirates would acquire Kelly Shoppach, Punto, and Capuano while resigning Lee. The signings would cost the organization $20 million next year, disregarding the possibility of multi-year contracts, for a total payroll of approximately $52 million.

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