An Early Look at an Estimated 2022 Payroll

A popular discussion topic among fans has been what kind of payroll space the Pittsburgh Pirates have going into 2022 and what that could mean for roster construction.

While some think 2022 could—and should—be the time for the team to start putting their foot on the pedal spending wise, I personally don’t think that’s what we’re going to see. However, that’s really a different topic of discussion—I’m sure you’ll have at it in the comments—as I’m just here to give a baseline based on what the roster might look like with reasonable moves projected. As usual, internal changes are favored since they’re easier to predict.

That’s really where I need to start, laying out moves to get a projected 2022 Opening Day roster. The starting point will be the currently full 40-man roster, with a running total following the moves below based on a regular offseason timeline.


Players Lost to Free Agency: Trevor Cahill, Shelby Miller, Yoshi Tsutsugo (38)

Added Back from the 60-day IL: Blake Cederlind (39)

Designated for Assignment In Lieu of Being Added from the 60-day IL: Chase De Jong, José Soriano (39)

DFA In Lieu of Nontender: Wilmer Difo, Ben Gamel, Chasen Shreve (36)

DFA: Anthony Alford, Anthony Banda, Phillip Evans (33)

Added to Protect from the Rule 5 Draft: Cody Bolton, Cal Mitchell, Liover Peguero Canaan Smith-Njigba, Travis Swaggerty, Tahnaj Thomas (39)

Trade: Steven Brault, Chris Stratton (37)

Major League Signings: Starting Outfielder, Relief Pitcher, Tsutsugo (40)


Lineup: Jacob Stallings, Colin Moran, Tucupita Marcano, Kevin Newman, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Free Agent, Bryan Reynolds, Michael Chavis, Tsutsugo (DH)

Bench: Michael Perez, Cole Tucker, Jared Oliva, Hoy Park

Rotation: JT Brubaker, Mitch Keller, Chad Kuhl, Bryse Wilson, Miguel Yajure

Bullpen: David Bednar, Sam Howard, Kyle Keller, Dillon Peters, Cody Ponce, Duane Underwood Jr., Free Agent, Minor League Free Agent

27-40: Bolton, Rodolfo Castro, Roansy Contreras, Wil Crowe, Oneil Cruz, Max Kranick, Nick Mears, Mitchell, Luis Oviedo, Peguero, Smith-Njigba, Shea Spitzbarth, Swaggerty, Thomas

60-day IL: Cederlind


Guaranteed Salaries: $0

That’s right, there is nary one player on a long-term, guaranteed deal running into next season. This of course would change with Major League free agent signings, but for now, this total stands at zero.

Arbitration Salaries: $18,100,000

The Pirates again could have a large group of arbitration eligible players, but I got rid of five in my effort to cut down the roster, so the players remaining are Kuhl, Moran, Newman, Perez, likely Super 2 eligible Reynolds, and Stallings. While some nontenders are certainly possible among this group—Newman and Perez in particular, for my money—this is who we’ll stick with for now.

While I tried to figure out the publicly accepted calculations for arbitration estimates, it always eludes me. Instead, I went with trying to find reasonable, recent comparisons to work from, which was all the more difficult given the shortened 2020 season. It’s far from scientific, but it should come to a number that’s at least in the ballpark. Here are the comparisons I made, for reference:

Kuhl: 2019 Brad Peacock

Moran: 2020 Gio Urshela

Newman: 2019 Wilmer Difo/2020 JP Crawford

Perez: 2019 Andrew Knapp/2019 Max Stassi

Reynolds: 2018 Trea Turner

Stallings: 2019 Austin Hedges

Pre-arbitration Salaries: $10,125,500

This includes every other player on the 26-man roster that isn’t on a guaranteed contract—17 in total per my projected roster.

Before I could come up with this amount, I had to calculate a projected minimum salary for 2022. Since there is no CBA to reference at this point, I merely applied the same raise that we saw from 2020 to 2021—1.24 percent—for 2022. This got me $577,500 as a baseline.

For anyone who is unaware, minimum contract amounts are often determined based on service time, so it’s not exactly accurate to enter the same number for every player. To account for this, I added two to three percent raises to past minimum salaries on the books for all the players in question. This is certainly not a perfect method, but it’s probably better than using one random estimate, and the total should still be within reason of whatever the actual amount ends up being.

This is also working off the assumption that there are no large increases to minimum salaries in any new agreement for the 2022 season and beyond. Personally, I view raises to the lowest paid players as a near certainty in negotiations, but I can’t project that at this point.

Minor League Salary: $1,036,800

This is the total allocated for players not on the active roster, which I filled for all 14 possible spots.

Again, since there are no set minimums for 2022, I had to calculate these salaries as well. I came up with $94,200 for players on second contracts or with major league experience and $47,200 for players new to the 40-man roster.

To determine who would occupy the final spots on the roster, I focused on who would be eligible for the 2021 Rule 5 Draft. I know the theory among some is that the Pirates will have to protect a very large number of players, but I could only go with six to get a roster that made any sense to start the season.

2022 Payroll Projection: $29,262,300

So, this is a very, very small number. Granted, it doesn’t include salaries for the four free agents I have slated for the roster, so even a $10 million increase wouldn’t be out of line as far as a final projection could go.

This was merely meant to establish a baseline to start from, with plenty of room to go up. However, as I stated from the beginning, I’m not sure 2022 is where we start to see that happen yet, at least in any significance.

I’m sure many fans hope I’m wrong, but it’s merely what I think will happen. We’ll have to watch as the offseason unfolds, at which point I’ll keep track of this projection, updating as the months move along.