PITTSBURGH -- Payroll has been a hot-button topic in Pittsburgh for years and likely will be as long as the Pirates' payroll figure remains among the lowest in the Majors. The Pirates opened the 2011 season with the 27th-lowest payroll, though the decision to take on salaries at the Trade Deadline increased that payroll figure by season's end.
The Pirates will not publicly announce where they expect their 2012 payroll to be, as some teams do. What is known, though, is that the organization does have the financial ability to push its payroll over $50 million.
Though the club's end-of-season payroll was above $50 million in 2011, the Pirates have not opened a season with a payroll above that mark since 2003. Keep in mind, though, that just because the Pirates have the financial flexibility to push past the $50 million figure, it doesn't guarantee that they will.
"As we have said from Day 1, the decisions that we have made about payroll have been baseball decisions," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We wanted to go with younger players. We wanted to trade free agents to add depth into the system. As this club matures, the payroll of this club will increase. It may not increase at the pace that everyone wants it to in the same way that the progression of our wins and losses have not."
The Pirates have already shed $32.8 million from their books by not exercising club options on Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder, Ronny Cedeno and Paul Maholm.
The club has nine remaining arbitration-eligible players, and those players will receive raises as a part of that arbitration process. However, the Pirates will not tender contracts to all nine.
"We're going to non-tender some players that people don't want us to non-tender," Huntington said. "We're going to tender some players that probably surprise some people. But those are the business decisions that we have to make. Every year, arbitration is going to organically drive up payroll higher."
Where the Pirates are expected to add significant payroll dollars is through whatever moves the organization makes to fill holes at first base, catcher, shortstop and on the mound. How much the payroll increases will be determined by how aggressive the Pirates end up being in the free-agent and trade markets.