Where Does the Pirates Payroll Stand Going into the Lockout?

When the clock struck midnight Wednesday night into Thursday morning, the lockout was officially upon us.

That means no more transactions, rumors, or on-field baseball talk in the least. Conversations have moved to labor law and proposals. Now, while I personally find this thrilling—I am not joking—I know many don’t, so we need to find any kind of baseball content where we can.

Well, I’m not sure this is the content you were hoping for, but I thought I would give a quick update on where the projected 2022 payroll sits as rosters are officially frozen until further notice.

Sure, this could all become moot, given that salary structures could change—especially minimum ones, which the Pittsburgh Pirates have in spades. However, it’s still a good exercise, especially as the Pirates are currently Exhibit A in the MLBPA’s crusade against noncompetitive teams and low payrolls.

So, just where does it sit at the moment? Let’s have a look:

Guaranteed Salaries: $15,500,000

This is quite a step up from the last time, where the number sat at $0 for a long while. A free agent splurge—Pirate edition, in which they are actually tied for second in signings with three, but 20th in guarantees with $11,000,000—has bumped them up significantly.

Among the six commitments is Michael Perez, who I instituted as the backup catcher, because well, you have to have one. I included his major league split amount as a guarantee—by rule, Perez had to sign a deal for 2022 before being outrighted—even though it would be lower if he were optioned to the minors.

Arbitration Salaries: $6,700,000

After some designations, nontenders, and outright assignments, a potential class of eleven has been whittled down to two—Bryan Reynolds and Chris Stratton. Of course, there’s no telling what arbitration may look like or when and how they may come to agreements, so their predictions per MLB Trade Rumors are still the placeholders here, for now.

Pre-arbitration Salaries: $11,311,000

This includes every other player on the 26-man roster that isn’t on a guaranteed contract—19 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. Of course, this is assuming minimum salaries don’t change dramatically, which I don’t think if a safe assumption.

Minor League Salary: $1,366,400

Another subsection that is very much up in the air, this is the total allocated for players not on the active roster, which I allocated thirteen out of fourteen 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.

Players with more service time or options used, like Luis Oviedo or Oneil Cruz, have higher estimates, as their split amounts are generally higher than the minimums.

2022 Payroll Projection: $34,877,400

Remember last offseason when all the talk was out there about Trevor Bauer making more than the Pirates? Well, that wasn’t true, however, that storyline is actually a possibility this time around. Max Scherzer just signed a three-year, $130 million deal with the New York Mets, in which the payouts are spread evenly among the life of the contract. Therefore, Scherzer is slated to make $43,333,333 in 2022, which is almost $10 million more than my current projection.

Who knows, maybe Ben Cherington sticks to his word and the team goes out and finds some more pitching, or some late addition NRI’s boost the bottom line, but for now, the Pirates are in fact projected to make less than one player.

I’d say follow along, as I normally would, but we won’t be seeing any changes, likely at least for a month or two. By that point, my family will have increased in size by 33%, so I’m hoping to be able to find time to digest the new deal and be here to cover it for you, but I can’t make any promises.

Here’s to hoping!