The Pirates payroll, a source of contention among fans in recent seasons, rose for the third consecutive season in 2013.
According to figures published this week by the Associated Press, the Pirates finished this past season with a $74,608,266 payroll. That represents a sizeable increase from $61.3 million at the end of 2012, $51.8 million after 2011 and $44.1 million after 2010.
Acquisitions and internal growth increased the payroll in the past few years. The Pirates took on A.J. Burnett's $16.5 million annual salary when they traded for him before the 2012 season, though they received salary relief from the New York Yankees.
The addition of Russell Martin on a two-year, $17 million contract drove up the payroll, as did the arbitration salaries of Garrett Jones, James McDonald and Neil Walker.
Despite the increase, the Pirates ranked 25th out of 30 teams in payroll this past season, according to the AP figures. They ranked 29th in 2012, 27th in 2011 and 29th in 2010.
The Yankees finished the season with the highest payroll, as they had for the previous 14 years. Their $237 million payroll just exceeded the Los Angeles Dodgers' $236 million figure, though both teams paid luxury tax for exceeding the $178 million threshold.
The Dodgers' payroll was higher than the Yankees' when adjusted for luxury tax, according to AP. The Dodgers, who didn't exceed the threshold in 2012, paid at a lower tax rate than the Yankees, who have surpassed the limit at least four years in a row.
No other teams paid luxury tax; the Boston Red Sox came closest with a $176 million payroll that ranked third in the league. The Houston Astros' $29.2 million payroll ranked last in the league.
By all indications, the Pirates payroll will continue to increase in 2014.
"We'll be up again next year," Pirates president Frank Coonelly told fans recently at a question-and-answer session at PirateFest. "We'll continue to reinvest the dollars that we generate and that you provide for this organization into the club. It'll be up, and it'll be up in a similar range as it's been each of the last three years."
The Pirates have 10 players under contract for a total of $53.75 million for 2014. That includes Wandy Rodriguez at $13 million -- $5.5 million of which comes from the Astros -- along with Martin at $8.5 million. Andrew McCutchen's salary increases to $7.25 million in the third year of his six-year, $51.5 million contract.
The salaries of the six players eligible for arbitration -- Neil Walker, Gaby Sanchez, Pedro Alvarez, Mark Melancon, Vin Mazzaro and Travis Snider -- will total about $15 million by conservative estimates, and the remaining nine players on the active roster making at or near the $500,000 major league minimum will add about $5 million.
The rest of the 40-man roster will bring the Pirates to at least $75 million, more if they sign or trade for more major leaguers.
"We have some money to spend," general manager Neal Huntington told fans at PirateFest. "We just have to spend it appropriately and wisely."
The average player salary rose 5.4 percent this past season, to $3.39 million, according to AP, which cited the Major League Baseball Players Association's annual report. The increase was the largest since 2006.
The Yankees had the highest average salary at $8.17 million and the Dodgers ranked second. The Astros' average of $549,603 was the lowest and only about $60,000 more than the 2013 major league minimum.
The Pirates announced the signings of seven minor-league free agents, including right-hander Kyle McPherson. McPherson was with the Pirates for his entire professional career before they designated him for assignment in November. He had Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in July on his right elbow.
McPherson, 26, made his major league debut in 2012 and pitched in 10 games, starting three. He made only two starts for Class AAA Indianapolis this year before needing surgery.
The Pirates also signed first baseman Travis Ishikawa, left-handers Daniel Schlereth, Adam Wilk and Brandon Mann, right-hander Elvin Ramirez and utility man Michael Martinez. McPherson, Ishikawa, Schlereth, Wilk and Martinez received invitations to major league spring training.
Ishikawa appeared in the majors this past season with the Baltimore Orioles and Yankees. Martinez hit .300 with 11 doubles and three home runs in 71 games with Class AAA Lehigh Valley in 2013.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG.