Breaking Down the Pirates’ 2021 Opening Day Payroll

Games are underway, rosters are set, and minimum salaries have been reported, so it’s officially time to calculate the Opening Payroll for 2021.

I have my own payroll calculations as far back as 2008, and this is the lowest it’s been since 2010, when the Pittsburgh Pirates opened the season at $38,420,834. Personally, I see little value in where the payroll actually stands this year—even beyond my general lack of care over what the number actually is—given where the team currently is in their rebuild. However, I still love to calculate and tabulate, so I’m going to provide a total, no matter what.

For a more in-depth, line-by-line breakdown, check out (and save) my payroll tracker that I’ll keep updated throughout the season.

Guaranteed Salaries: $51,884,000

Two late offseason signings padded this a tad, but the largest chunk of this figure is for the ten arbitration eligible players on the roster.

As will usually happen, injuries inflated the total somewhat, as the team had to replace three players that weren’t expected to start the season on the 60-day IL. Also, Clay Holmes sneaking in under the gun to replace Kyle Crick—who is starting the season on the COVID-19 Related IL—raised payroll a pure $650,000, as he didn’t need to be on the roster at all.

In total, this factors in two long-term contracts, two free agent contracts, one minor league free agent, ten arbitration deals, sixteen renewals, and two Rule 5 Draft picks.

Minor League Salary: $1,069,800

This is the total allocated for players not on the active roster, with thirteen players accounting for the total. One of them, however, is not on the Reserve List at the moment. Since Troy Stokes Jr. was tendered a contract at the December deadline, the Pirates are tied to his deal for the 2021 season, even if they weren’t the team to originally tender him. Payroll can’t be outrighted off the roster, even when a player is, so he’s factored into the 2021 total.

The CBA calls for 2021 Minor League salaries to be calculated with a cost of living adjustment, which came to $46,600 for first timers and $93,000 for subsequent contracts. These are just minimums, and while the players on subsequent contracts are likely earning more, the minimum is the safest, most reasonable salary to project.

Signing Bonuses: $1,100,000

Since the Pirates didn’t commit to any additional long-term contracts this offseason, this only factors in two players—Gregory Polanco and you know who.

Signing Bonuses (or Prorated Buyouts): $850,000

Again, the same two contracts are included here, so nothing new to discuss.

Option Buyouts: $250,000

Option buyouts are typically prorated over the life of a guaranteed deal and not realized in the year they are paid, as with the ones above. Last season, Chris Archer had his first option picked up, meaning the Pirates were able to take a credit on the previous proration of his initial buyout. However, Article XXIII(E)(5)(b)(i)(B) of the CBA stipulates that if a “Player ultimately receives an Option Buyout that relates to an Option Year other than the earliest Option Year, that Option Buyout shall be included in Salary in the Contract Year covered by the option that was not exercised.” Therefore, Archer’s second buyout is being accounted for in full in 2021.

Credits: $(8,000,000)

With you know who spending a second consecutive season on the Restricted List, the Pirates will not be on the hook for the only other player on a long-term deal outside of Polanco, their second highest salary this season.

In case you weren’t aware, this is the final guaranteed year of that contract, with two options remaining after 2021. Personally, I’m wondering what will become of the buyout for 2022, but that’s a question to be answered at a later date.

2021 Payroll Projection: $47,153,800

If you care about such things, I came up with two additional payroll calculations for 2021. The Competitive Balance Tax calculation came to a total of $41,953,800, while straight cash paid is projected at $45,953,800. And for posterity sake, none of these totals is less than that of the same calculations for Trevor Bauer’s salary, no matter what anyone said over the offseason.

You can find these totals in the payroll spreadsheets as well, and I will also be tracking both of these figures as the season goes.

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