Craig Edwards has an article at FanGraphs about “The Awfully Quiet Pirates” (h/t NastyNate82). Between a couple pieces I wrote last week and a FanPost by IsIt 2015Yet?, I feel like there’s an echo. Edwards runs through the plummeting attendance, the decent showing on the field last year, and the acquisition of Chris Archer and Keone Kela. All of that, plus a division that projects to be highly competitive next year, seemed to set the Pirates for a window of contention through 2021.
But no, the Pirates “have done almost nothing this offseason to improve.” Instead, “[o]nly the Tampa Bay Rays have a lower projected payroll at the moment.” And after years of roughly tracking MLB-wide spending, albeit at a significantly lower level, the team’s payroll is set to drop sharply relative to MLB.
The most obvious complaint for Pirates’ fans is the huge downturn in 2019 payroll we see as of now despite competing in 2018, losing no significant contributors this offseason, and gaining a full season of Chris Archer and Keone Kela. But that’s not where the angst regarding the Pirates’ spending really begins. If we were to look at graphs like the ones above for teams from similarly small markets like Milwaukee, Cleveland or Kansas City, we would expect to see similar graphs. What we would actually see, though, is that when those teams became competitive, they immediately invested more money into the roster to capitalize on that excitement, and ran close to (Cleveland) or above league-average payrolls (Milwaukee and Kansas City).
The fact is, the Pirates just aren’t making the effort to win that other small markets are making.
The Pirates had an opportunity this offseason to continue repairing their relationship with their fans. But an approach that looked so promising at the trade deadline has left much to be desired this winter.