Breaking Down the Pirates’ 2020 Year-End Payroll

A payroll lower than anything the Pittsburgh Pirates have fielded since at least 2000 could be interesting to talk about in some fashion, right?

Of course, it’s only that low because of prorated salaries over the 60-game regular season; otherwise, it would fall in the range of the 2013 season, when the Pirates were just starting to build their salaries up. This of course is still far too low for the liking of many fans, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. As always, I don’t care what the final number actually is. My goal is to be the most accurate, in-depth, and understandable source available for payroll tracking. It doesn’t matter to me how low or how high the number is, only that it’s right.

The short-season intricacies led to some slight difficulties early on, but what followed was a season of far fewer moves, which led to quite a boring summary, if I must say so myself. There won’t be a lot to talk about below, but I wanted to cover it, nonetheless.

For anyone who doesn’t remember or may have missed it, I covered the Opening Day payroll using the same ideology when the season started. This will be the starting point for all the following comparisons—I will show where it started, where it ended, and make note of any relevant information regarding in season changes. For historical reference, I’m including what payroll would have looked like if scaled over a full season, presented as Full Season Figure / Prorated Figure. Any detail provided will be for prorated figures, which I hope doesn’t create too much confusion. I just thought it would make more sense to have a full season number that one could compare to for last and next season, if they so choose.

Major League Salary: Over the season, the biggest changes here were the trade of Jarrod Dyson ($331,675) and designations and subsequent claims of Robbie Erlin ($422,886) and Guillermo Heredia ($165,837). These three were among the fourteen highest paid Pirates, and the savings amounted to $920,398 of their $1,666,667 worth of salary for the year.

Salary did go up $98,729 here, so it had to be made up somewhere, and that somewhere was with waiver claims and contract selections to cover for all the injuries sustained throughout the season. Also, Geoff Hartlieb and Sam Howard spent the majority of the season in the bullpen replacing injured players, raising payroll significantly.

Major League Salary Starting Total: $63,677,500 / $23,584,260

Major League Salary Final Total: $63,944,064 / $23,682,989

Minor League Salary: This typically small figure was even less significant with salaries being prorated; however, there was a 60% increase ($152,698) during the season. This can basically solely be attributed to the aforementioned Heredia. Before he was designated for assignment, Heredia was optioned to Altoona, and since he wasn’t on a split-contract, he was paid at his Major League salary. He was paid $127,142 before being claimed by the New York Mets.

Minor League Salary Starting Total: $689,000 / $255,185

Minor League Salary Final Total: $1,101,284 / $407,883

Prorated Signing Bonuses: With the team not acquiring any players on long-term deals, there are no in-season changes here to report.

Prorated Signing Bonuses Starting Total: $1,100,000 / $1,100,000

Prorated Signing Bonuses Final Total: $1,100,000 / $1,100,00

Prorated Buyouts: Ditto…

Prorated Buyouts Starting Total: $850,000 / $850,000

Prorated Buyouts Final Total: $850,000 / $850,000

Performance Bonuses: When prorated salaries were first announced, it was also clarified that thresholds for bonuses would be prorated as well. In turn, the bonus payouts would also be reduced. The only Pirate with any reported bonuses was Derek Holland, who had innings pitched escalators in his contract. The originally agreed upon amounts were $50,000 for 50 and 75 innings, which increased to $100,000 for 100 and 125 innings pitched.

Prorating the innings total was a little tricky, but I rounded them to what made the most sense—18 2/3, 28, 37, and 46 1/3 innings pitched. Holland hit three out of the four escalators, gaining an extra $74,000 for his services in 2020.

Performance Bonuses Starting Total: $0 / $0

Performance Bonuses Final Total: $200,000 / $74,000

Cash Considerations: The Pirates didn’t promise to pay a portion of any of the players they traded away (or, in this case, just Dyson), so no changes to report here either.

Cash Considerations Starting Total: $1,500,000 / $1,500,000

Cash Considerations Final Total: $1,500,000 / $1,500,000

Credits: The same three players started the season suspended as started it, and with no other credits to talk about, here’s yet again another category that didn’t change over the season.

Credits Starting Total: $(6,090,812) / $(2,762,444)

Credits Final Total: $(6,090,812) / $(2,762,444)

2020 Opening Day Payroll: $61,725,688 / $24,527,001

Final 2020 Payroll: $62,604,536 / $24,852,428

That’s it for 2020. Here’s to hoping there’s more to talk about in 2021. Maybe it’s just me, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up too high.