Pittsburgh Pirates: Offseason fact check

Follow me on Twitter @jim_krug; opening image credit nydailynews)

1.  $47.5MM/$69.0MM (MM = million).  Current and estimated overall payroll for the 2014 Pirates, according to baseball-reference.com at this point in the offseason.  The $69MM team payroll would rank 5th lowest in baseball to begin the 2014 season, if no significant additional free agents are added to the roster.

2.  +$25MM.  The additional amount that every MLB team will receive each year from 2014-2021, courtesy of the new ESPN national TV contract.

3.  +$40MM.  The profit that TimesOnline writer John Perrotto reports that the Pirates will turn in 2014, citing a source with “intimate knowledge of the finances of the 30 major-league franchises.”

4.  +$26.8MM.  The profit that the Pirates turned in 2013, according to Forbes.com, making the franchise the 6th most profitable team to own in baseball this past season.

5.  D.  Offseason grade that ESPN Insider’s Jim Bowden recently gave the Pirates to date, concerned that no free agents of significance have been added, and that the Buccos are currently looking at a platoon of Gaby Sanchez and Andrew Lambo (AAA) to man the premiere power position of first base in 2014.

Big shoes to fill; image credit theghostofmoonlightgraham

6.  Decline expected.  Prediction of ESPN writer David Schoenfeld, who cites that the Pirates are “ripe for an increase in runs allowed“, due in large part to the potential of losing A.J. Burnett, and replacing him with a starter in Edinson Volquez who “was the worst regular starter in the majors in 2013 and hasn’t had an ERA under 4.00 since 2008.”

7.  Paying market value?  At the Winter Meetings, GM Neal Huntington appeared to distance himself from controversial comments he made about the Pirates never being able to pay “market value” for free agents like Burnett.  Speaking to BucsDugout founder Charlie Wilmoth, the GM adjusted his position:

@WilmothC: Talked to NH, who walked back his comments about never paying market value for FAs.
@WilmothC: Says that wasn’t what he intended, meant to say pirates and many other franchises would not be able to pay top-tier prices …

(I highly recommend following Charlie’s work.  He is well-respected by Pirates’ fans everywhere, and his Pirates podcasts are generally considered excellent.)

8.  Sometimes sports fans on message boards are some of the most informed, up-to-date sources of information you can find.  They love a team enough to spend upwards of hours time a day posting about their franchise in relative anonymity, constantly monitor social media sources like Twitter for team updates, and are quick to point out any contradictions in what an organization says vs. what it does.  The following are just a sampling of what Pirates’ fans have picked up on this week online…

Packed to the seams for much of 2013; image credit Matt Robinson

9.  Since 2010:
2013 – up 150K
2012 – up 150K
2011 – up 300K
2010 – up 40K

Attendance is up 40% since the end of the 2009 season.

Courtesy of a poster by the handle of “GoBucs21”, showing that attendance has increased by 40% since the Pirates’ 62-99 finish in 2009.  Fans have kept their promise to Pirates’ ownership to increase attendance, but are still waiting on ownership to keep their promise of increasing payroll to competitive levels.

10.  Barmes…33rd of 36 shortstops with over 300 PA, using wRC+. Mercer was 7th. Only ones worse than Barmes (Kozma, Ryan, Escobar).
Stewart…32nd of 33 catchers with over 300 PA, using wRC+. Only one worse, Arencibia…by 1.
Volquez…81st out of 81 pitchers qualifying for the ERA total in ERA.

Research courtesy of a poster named “Thunder”, expounding upon just how bad the Pirates’ offseason free agent signings and acquisitions have been.  GM Huntington has literally acquired 3 of the worst players in all of MLB in 2013, and paid $8,000,000 to do it!

What’s going on? Image credit triblive

Overall, there’s been little positive to report from the first Pirates’ offseason following a postseason appearance in 20 years.  In fairness, that could all change in a day.  This offseason takes on a new light if the Pirates resign Burnett, and make a bold signing like free agent OF Shin Soo-Choo.  But so far, it appears that the organization has been content to take profits, blow what little free agent money allocation they have on some of the worst players in baseball, and give fans convoluted- and often contradictory- messages at how much the team looks to spend to be competitive in 2014.

Thanks for reading?

  • Maurice B Murray

    Hopefully the team will continue to build on the momentum of last season. It would be a crime after waiting 20 years as a true Pirate fan to see the organization resort back to its old form.

  • scott stevens

    Very good read, disappointing to see what’s going on within the Pirate organization.