Ownership wants payroll under $40 million
Photo: David Hague – Inside Pittsburgh Sports.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have $24 million committed to salaries for the 2010 season with the payroll expected to rise to $30-$32 million after arbitration raises.
After dealing away a number of high priced veterans, Pittsburgh clearly has some money to spend in free agency but the team won’t be making any kind of splash.
The Pirates will be looking for bargains as sources tell TIOPS, ownership has set a payroll ceiling for GM Neal Huntington at $38-$40 million.
This coming after Jayson Stark mentioned this week that the Pirates get $80 million in revenue from MLB before even selling a ticket.
Pittsburgh’s top priority is upgrading the bullpen but the team won’t be in on any of the top tier relievers and that includes former Pirate Mike Gonzalez.
“Our focus is going to be more on the borderline-type guys that may not get $3-4 million or may not even get a Major League contract,” GM Neal Huntington said. “We’ve got an opportunity where we can sell a chance to come in and compete for a chance on the Major League club.”
One of the Pirates top left handed reliever targets is lefty Mark Hendrickson. Hendrickson, 35, had a 4.37 era in 105.0 innings pitched. Hendrickson made a salary of $1.5 million in 2009 and is viewed as a short-term fix for the Pirates.
Pittsburgh plans to wait it out until after the new year to find bargains, like the team tried to do last year in pursuing relievers Joe Beimel and Will Ohman.
Beimel expects to receive a call again from Pittsburgh but indications are he has no interest in re-joining the Pirates. Ohman is no longer on the Pirates radar.
Adding a right handed reliever is also a priority for the Pirates after trading away Jesse Chavez. The Pirates remain very aggressive in trying to land righty reliever Ryota Igarashi of the Yakult Swallows. Igarashi is a former teammate of Akinori Iwamura.
The team also plans to add a bat and have not ruled out bringing in another short-stop to battle Roger Cedeno for playing time.
A player of interest at short-stop for the Pirates is Butler, Pennsylvania native Khalil Greene. Pittsburgh will explore the market for Greene in the hopes of getting Greene on the cheap.
Along with upgrading the bullpen, adding a bat is a priority.
For the time being the Pirates are shying away from first baseman Hank Blalock. The Pirates intentions are to make a strong play for outfielder Rick Ankiel and use Garrett Jones at first base along with the possibility of Jeff Clement having a strong spring training and pushing for playing time.
The Pirates haven’t ruled out making a play for Blalock but the Pirates efforts are going to be elsewhere to begin free agency.
One area where the Pirates won’t be active is looking for a starting pitcher. The team has all intentions of moving forward with Ross Ohlendorf, Zach Duke, Paul Maholm and letting a number of pitchers battle for the final two spots in the rotation.
The candidates for the No. 4 and No. 5 spots include Charlie Morton, Kevin Hart, Daniel McCutchen, Jose Ascanio, Virgil Vasquez, and and Donnie Veal.
Team sources indicate three sleepers in spring training to beat out Morton and Hart will be rookie Donnie Veal, Daniel McCutchen and Jose Ascanio.
Veal has been impressive in the Arizona Fall League and the Pirates planned to give Ascanio some starts in September before he was sidelined with shoulder tendinitis.