The Pirates are an organization that is all about value. This off-season has been so Pirates.
Pedro Alvarez projected to earn $8 million, they sign John Jaso who may hit 20 less homers but will get on base more for half of what they would have paid Alvarez.
They get out of Charlie Morton’s contract (owed $17.5 million next two seasons) by trading him to Philadelphia and sign Ryan Vogelsong for $2 million per season.
As Major League Baseball teams continue to roll in more money than they ever imagined with increased revenue throughout and monster TV deals, what this off-season proved is the Pirates haven’t adapted to how the market is changing.
A serviceable No. 3 starter now costs 5 years, $70-$80 million. The Royals signing Ian Kennedy to a 5 year, $70 million contract and the Cardinals signing of Mike Leake to a 5 year, $80 million contract continue to show how the market has evolved. It’s not just the big market teams that are dishing out these contracts.
For the most part the Kennedy, Leake contracts have been looked at as favorable from industry insiders.
It might look like crazy money but it’s not when it comes to the type of money almost every team is rolling in on a year-to-year basis.
The Pirates are not bringing in the type of massive money they should be after badly miscalculating the television movement in accepting a below market TV contract with Root Sports in 2010 that was worth $178 million over 10 years. It was a major miscalculation by the organization. Pirate insiders put the blame on Frank Coonelly for this one.
Many teams in markets similar to the Pirates cashed in a few years after the Pirates inked their below market deal. The Rangers reached a $3 billion, 20-year deal in 2012 that began in 2015, the Padres have a $50 million a year contract over 20 years.
For the Pirates, it’s a stretch to even imagine them having the stomach to offer Andrew McCutchen, who will be a $200+ million dollar player, a five year, $90 million type contract that is going to marginal pitchers these days.
Even with the Pirates missing out on the golden age of tv money, the Pirates can afford to give McCutchen $200 million in three years if they wanted, especially considering they are bound to finally get a lucrative TV deal by 2020+ that could easily pay for McCutchen’s contract.
However, that’s not how the Pirates operate.
Everything is about value.
The better value will be locking up Gregory Polanco, moving Starling Marte to center, and trading McCutchen in two years as he hits his 30’s.
Neal Huntington is the ‘best value’ General Manager out there. It would be fun to see him operate with a Rangers type payroll but he’s perfect for what ownership wants (financially) as he’s always thinking years ahead.
When the Pirates are ready to move on from McCutchen for financial reasons, they’ll have top prospect Austin Meadows ready to replace him.
As we’re talking about value, Huntington has set the Pirates up well when they likely lose Francisco Cervelli next season.
Citing a source, Travis Sawchik reported this week the type of deal it would take to sign Cervelli is three years, $39 million.
The agent is surely floating those numbers out there and that type of deal isn’t going to happen from Pittsburgh’s end.
Again it comes down to value for them.
The Pirates can easily afford Cervelli and it’s likely not what fans want to hear but the better value is going with Elias Diaz and Chris Stewart in 2017 with 1st round pick Reese McGuire likely ready for the full-time gig by 2018.
This quote from Huntington to Sawchik say’s it all.
“We are also fortunate to have two quality catching prospects [Diaz, McGuire] that are near major league ready in case we are not able to reach common financial ground.”
Three straight winning seasons shouldn’t have fans accepting the Pirates way. They’re bound to hit a point where the ‘Pirates way’ leads to them staying competitive but unable to keep up with the Cubs or Cardinals.
It could happen as early as 2016.
Photo: David Hague