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Insider Only Steigerwald: Dissecting Pirates being Cheap & Smart Business, + Pens Cup Contender Status



The Pirates are cheap.

That’s the consensus among fans and media who are really good at spending other people’s money. In this case it’s the Nutting family’s money and they have decided that it should have spent more money to keep Gerrit Cole happy.

Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported on Saturday that Cole wasn’t happy with the $541,000 one-year contract that he signed.

Twitter and the talk shows exploded with responses from fans calling the Nuttings cheap.

They say cheap, I say smart.

Cole is heading into his third season. The collective bargaining agreement that his union agreed to several years ago gives teams full control over players’ salaries until they become arbitration eligible after their third season.

As Biertempfel points out, the $8 million signing bonus the Pirates gave Cole after making him the first overall pick in 2011, was the highest ever given to an amateur player.

So, five years ago the Nuttings weren’t so cheap.

They gave Cole $8 million before he had thrown a pitch in the big leagues. Now he feels hurt because the Pirates used the system they bargained for to keep Cole’s cost down before arbitration kicks in?

Cole’s big pay day will come if he keeps pitching the way he’s pitched for his first two seasons.

His agent is Scott Boras, which means, if you enjoy watching Cole pitch for the Pirates, you shouldn’t get too used to it.

He’ll be gone five minutes after he reaches free agency. And that’s another perfectly good reason for the Nuttings to pay him the bare minimum now.

The Pirates are getting Cole dirt cheap now and it’s the current system that allows them and every other Major League team to pay ridiculous amounts of money to mediocre players in arbitration settlements.

Cole’s feeling were hurt because the Pirates threatened to reduce him to the league minimum of $507,000 if he didn’t accept their offer.

Again, Cole, who’s been elected the Pirates’ union rep by his teammates, should understand that his union agreed to let the owners have control for the first three years and that he will be the one who can make threats after 2019 when he becomes a free agent.

The $12 million that Cole will have made going into arbitration next year, is $120,000 a year for 100 years. It’s $240,000 a year for 50 years

He’s 25..

He needs to shut up and pitch.

If you want too criticize the Nuttings for being cheap, you’ll have plenty of justified opportunities.

Keep your eye on Tyler Glasnow. He’s their best pitching prospect and looked ready for a promotion last August when he had an 0.99 ERA in Indianapolis.

The Pirates’ biggest question mark going into the season is their starting rotation. If Glasnow is blowing hitters away in spring training and looks like a better pitcher than Jeff Locke and he doesn’t make the trip north, that will be because the Nuttings are cheap and stupid.

If they wait until June or July to call someone up who could have helped them in April in order to delay the start of his service time clock, the Nuttings deserve every word of criticism and ridicule that they get.

They haven’t won a playoff series in 37 years and they’re playing in the best division in baseball where one win could determine whether they go to the post season.

If trying to save money in 2018 prevents them from having their 25 best players on the 2016 roster for the entire season, that’s cheap.

And astoundingly stupid.


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Photo: David Hague

About The Author

John Steigerwald

TIOPS Columnist

John Steigerwald, a life long Pittsburgher, has been covering PITTSBURGH sports since 1977 as a TV anchor/reporter, columnist radio reporter/commentator and talk show host. He is also the author of one of the best selling local books in Pittburgh history, "Just Watch The Game."

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