Pirates' many trades saved $7.3 million this year

Coonelly: Official MLB accounting shows payroll will be $47.7 million

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The Pirates have heard and read plenty of criticism about their recent trades that sent away popular players and pared payroll, and they apparently have had enough.

Team president Frank Coonelly yesterday produced for the Post-Gazette specific numbers, as calculated by the office of Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, that show the amount the Pirates will spend on payroll for 2009 will be $47.7 million, roughly $7.3 million lower than the $55 million that had been projected on opening day.

That is far less of a decrease than most likely envisioned when seeing large-salaried players such as Jack Wilson ($7.25 million), Adam LaRoche ($7.05 million) and Freddy Sanchez ($6.1 million) traded away.

"The savings are not nearly as large as some believe," Coonelly said.

Here are the numbers:

• The Pirates' total salary commitment for 2009 is $39,118,541.08. That includes every major league contract on the 40-man roster, all prorated money paid to major league players before they were traded -- roughly $12 million total to Wilson, LaRoche and Sanchez, for example -- and all money to players on the major league disabled list.

• The amount paid in amortized signing bonuses is $3.85 million, including $1.5 million each to Paul Maholm and Nate McLouth before the latter was traded, and $300,000 to Ryan Doumit.

• The amount paid to other teams in trades is $3,715,202.19. That is made up from the $3,308,702.19 sent to the Seattle Mariners in the Wilson/Ian Snell trade, and $406,500 to the New York Yankees in the Eric Hinske trade. On each occasion, the Pirates maintain, they paid the other teams to improve the quality of prospects they received in return.

• No money came from other teams in trades.

• A $1 million buyout was paid to pitcher Matt Morris.

Those four figures add up to MLB's total of $47,683,743.27 that the Pirates are projected to spend this year on major league payroll. Coonelly said that figure was $55 million on April 6, opening day in St. Louis. And, thus, the $7.3 million difference.

"The number that matters, obviously, is how much you actually spend, not the number on opening day, which is just adding up the full-season salaries for the 25 players on the roster that day," Coonelly said.

If today were opening day, and the Pirates had no obligations toward signing bonuses, cash in trades or buyouts, the payroll for the 25-man roster -- plus three injured players -- would be $23,162,000.

That figure is certain to rise next year, management has acknowledged, though Coonelly and owner Bob Nutting, in an interview Saturday, each said the team still has not begun forming a 2010 budget.

Most of the criticism for the trades has been aimed at Nutting, and general manager Neal Huntington yesterday made an impassioned defense of his boss.

"The decisions we've made have been baseball decisions for baseball reasons that Bob has signed off on," Huntington said. "I can't believe there are many owners in baseball who would sign on for that kind of abuse, but he did. And he's taking a ton of abuse. It speaks volumes about him and his commitment to doing this the right way."

Huntington also cited increased spending on additional scouts, player development as well as a three-year draft budget of $25 million-$30 million that he described as possibly the biggest in baseball history in such a span.

"You can throw money at big league players. It doesn't always buy you pennants. We're building this from the ground up, and Bob's willing to take the abuse that his baseball operations people are putting him in line to take."

At the same time, Huntington expressed empathy for some of the public sentiment.

"I really do understand the frustration of the fans, but the patchwork methods really don't work very often in our markets, and not just Pittsburgh. In these markets, you have to have a strong talent base, a continuous cycle of talent, and the only way to do that is to invest in scouting and development. Bob has given us top-of-the-industry -- not just the top in our market size -- resources to do build with."

Of MLB's 30 teams, the Pirates probably will finish with the third-lowest amount spent on major league payroll, with the San Diego Padres and Florida Marlins lower.


Catch more on the Pirates at the PG's PBC Blog . Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com .


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