You’ve seen it by now, and if you’ve followed the Pirates’ offseason spending, or lack thereof, you’re not surprised.
But to see it put in plain sight, the Pirates’ current payroll of $71 million is downright jarring, especially when compared to the rest of the NL Central as DK Pittsburgh Sports shows.
It’s hard to win on a $71 million payroll, no matter how smart you are, and it’s hard to see Pittsburgh spending much more before the season begins now that we know, despite hopeful speculation on Twitter, that Neil Huntington hasn’t placed his bid as Manny Machado’s mystery suitor, according to Jon Heyman of Fancred.
The Pirates lackadaisical approach to the offseason is puzzling to say the least when you consider the acquisitions of Chris Archer and Keone Kela at least season’s trade deadline.
It seemed safe to assume the Pirates would be aggressive on the free-agency market after shedding payroll and mortgaging young assets Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow and Shane Baz in an attempt to win now. Instead, the Pirates have settled for depth signings while shopping Francisco Cervelli and, though Heyman debunks this, possibly Starling Marte.
It’s likely not all on Huntington’s shoulders here as Bob Nutting controls the purse strings, but it’s extremely confusing and frustrating from a fan’s perspective. At this point, I’m expecting to hear the front office deliver a boilerplate statement on their lack of meaningful activity and tell the fanbase they see their window to contend in 2020.
Pirates fans have seen this movie many times and know how it goes. It’s even more frustrating this time around though as the Cincinnati Reds have decided they’re done with a slow rebuild and will, at least try, to compete sooner rather than later. Maybe it doesn’t work out for Cincinnati, but considering their revamped pitching staff and lineup didn’t put a dent into the top tier of their farm system, it’s impossible not to be envious of that approach.
I hate being the cynic, but I hate even more that the Pirates don’t give me a reason to feel otherwise. The Pirates do have a potentially elite pitching rotation led by Archer, Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams, and the bullpen should also be very solid despite losing Edgar Santana for the season. But it’s hard to believe that will be enough with a mediocre at best offense, especially until Gregory Polanco returns, in a division that has gotten stronger across the board.
Maybe the Pirates do make some key additions before free agency comes to a close, but at this point those moves could be overpays in an effort to compensate for their earlier inactivity. Just moves so the team could say “hey, we spent money.”
The point isn’t just to spend money though. The Pirates had a chance to enter this offseason with a plan to take a major step forward through smart spending and impact moves. Instead, the Pirates have taken a bold approach by shedding $19 million and doing largely nothing while everyone around them gets better.