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Pirates' payroll likely to increase substantially in 2014

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Biertempfel writes that the Pirates' payroll will likely be much higher in 2014 than it was in 2013.

This season the total payroll of the Pirates' 40-man roster was $75 million. That figure will grow, likely by a significant margin, next season. The Pirates will gain revenue from an expanded season ticket-holder base (a byproduct of this year's postseason run) and a large bump in its share of the national television money doled out by MLB.

The fact that the Pirates were at $75 million this year is significant, I think. In 2011, Frank Coonelly was asked whether the Pirates might one day have a $70-80 million payroll (in inflation-adjusted dollars), and he said yes, if the Pirates had a competitive core and attendance took a step forward.

Today, no, but we will be able to support that payroll very soon if our fans believe that we now have a group of players in Pittsburgh and on its way here in the near future that is competitive.  We need to take a meaningful step forward in terms of attendance to reach that payroll number while continuing to invest heavily in our future but I am convinced that the attendance will move quickly once we convince our fans that we are on the right track.

That perfectly reasonable answer ignited a firestorm for some reason. Well, two years later, the Pirates had assembled a competitive core, attendance did go up, and the Pirates are doing exactly what Coonelly said they would. The Pirates are spending a good bit more than they did just a few years ago, and what's more, they're spending well, with many of their expensive-ish veterans (particularly A.J. Burnett, Russell Martin and Jason Grilli) being among their best players. The Pirates haven't gotten much credit for delivering on their promise, particularly after fans bashed them endlessly for making it, but delivering on their promise is exactly what they're doing.

In the same article, there's some discussion of what the Pirates might do with their arbitration-eligible players. Biertempfel mentions that the Pirates could non-tender Vin Mazzaro, although Mazzaro probably will make less than $1 million in his first year of arbitration, so I'm not sure why the Pirates would risk exposing him to the free-agent market. Non-tendering him really doesn't make sense. Biertempfel also suggests the Pirates could sign Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker to "multiyear deals." I don't support that idea in either case, or at least I don't think the Pirates should bother signing either player to a deal that covers any free-agency seasons. Of course, a multiyear deal could simply mean, for example, a two-year deal to buy out two arbitration seasons, which would be a fairly low-risk proposition.