Demilio: The Rays Have Proven There Are No Excuses For The Pirates Lack Of Spending
There’s no question that there is a payroll disparity issue in Major League Baseball, commissioner Rob Manfred even said so himself. Teams like the Pirates will never come close to sniffing the luxury tax threshold, and won’t have $200M+ payrolls like we see from the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets, etc.
Even though this is true, that doesn’t mean the Pirates can’t make big deals that make sense, and the Rays have proven that true this offseason. Now, the Bucs currently sit in a very different position than the Rays. Tampa Bay is once again a postseason contender, and the Pirates are looking at another bottom-tier finish as the rebuild continues.
But heck, the Rockies aren’t in a much different situation than the Pirates and they went out and signed Kris Bryant to a seven-year $182M deal this week. Even the Orioles have reportedly been somewhat in the mix for Carlos Correa.
But looking again at the Rays, the organization commonly compared to Pittsburgh in terms of budget and market, they have been very aggressive this winter. Prior to the lockout, the Rays extended young stud Wander Franco in a deal that guarantees him $182M and can easily surpass $200M when all said and done. Then, surprisingly, the Rays were right in the mix for the services of Freddie Freeman, offering him a six-year deal worth $150M, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Freeman ultimately signed with the Dodgers.
Compare both of those deals to the Pirates biggest contracts in team history. In terms of total value, the biggest contract ever handed out by the Pirates was a six-year $60M deal to Jason Kendall, more than two decades and one owner ago. On a per year basis, the Pirates gave Francisco Liriano a three-year deal with an AAV of $13M back in 2014. Looking at the payroll this year, the highest-paid Pirate is Roberto Perez ($5M).
This is not a plea for the Pirates to start going crazy and making big deals just to make deals. But when the team is competing again, they need to be willing to spend bigger money on signings or trades that make sense to help the team compete for a World Series, and the Rays have shown a smaller-market can.
It can even start soon with deals that won’t even break the bank. Locking up the future core with extensions to guys like Bryan Reynolds, Ke’Bryan Hayes and even Oneil Cruz would not only help the Pirates get set up for the future, but would be a mark of good faith to their fans.
The Pirates don’t have to annually push the luxury tax thresholds to be a competitive team, but supplementing their young core with a strong veteran presence or two to the lineup, rotation and/or bullpen will help.
The excuses we have heard in the past from Bob Nutting, while justified to some extent in that they will never be a top-payroll team, do not hold nearly the same water as they did prior to this offseason. The Rays especially, and even Colorado and Baltimore, have shown that a team like the Pirates can still splurge here or there.