Oct 3, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) hits a solo home run against the St. Louis Cardinals in the fifth inning of game one of the National League divisional series playoff baseball game at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Pirates 9-1. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates: How high will payroll go in 2014?

For years, Pittsburgh Pirates fans have been screaming at owner Bob Nutting to open up his checkbook.

They may get their wish this offseason.

Aug 3, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington on the field before the Pirates host the Colorado Rockies at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off their best season in 20 years, culminating with a playoff run, the Bucs will receive a large portion of television revenue that could potentially come close to $50 million.

According to Pirates’ general manager Neal Huntington, that money will all be going to the payroll for this season.

Huntington was a guest on 93.7 The Fan Thursday morning and had the following to say:

“Whatever we get will be going toward payroll,” when he was asked about the television revenue money.

That is great news to any fan of this team as there are holes to be filled at first base, right field and the starting rotation. However, one thing you don’t want to see is the Pirates spend money just for the sake of spending money. It has to go for the right pieces, something Huntington has been pretty good at finding the past couple of seasons.

This season the total payroll of the Pirates’ 40-man roster was $75 million.

That number is sure to increase, but while you want to see the Bucs be aggressive in free agency, can they really survive with a payroll in excess of $125 million?

It’s nice to spend money, but not all big spenders end up putting winning teams on the field. At the end of the day it’s about winning and not about competing with the big market teams in terms of payroll.

There will be opportunities to increase the payroll, not just based on the television dollars, but also because they will gain revenue from an expanded season ticket-holder base thanks to this season’s playoff run.

That alone makes you wonder if Nutting’s penny pinching days are finally over?

He allowed Huntington to add salary during the season in the form of Marlon Byrd, John Buck and Justin Morneau and you have to think that he won’t stand in the way this offseason.

The Bucs already have a lot of money on the books already for next year. Assuming pitcher Wandy Rodriguez triggers his contract option, the Pirates will have $37.9 million committed to six players for 2014. Russell Martin, Andrew McCutchen, Jason Grilli, Jose Tabata and Francisco Liriano also are locked up. Add in all of the arbitration eligible players and the Bucs payroll should be around what it finished at before they make any additions.

Two of those arbitration eligible players are Pedro Alvarez (first of three years) and Neil Walker (second of four).

A lot of that television money should go to signing Alvarez to a contract extension. They have the money to do it now, so it should be a top priority. The same can be said for Walker, although I would tread carefully with that. You also have to remember that Alvarez is represented by Scott Boras, so signing Pedro to a long-term deal won’t be easy and it certainly won’t be cheap.

Regardless, both Alvarez and Walker are due for hefty raises through arbitration, so that is something that needs to be accounted for.

The Bucs will also likely retain Vin Mazzaro, Charlie Morton, Gaby Sanchez and Mark Melancon through arbitration while they will likely non-tender Garrett Jones, Felix Pie and Travis Snider, allowing the three of them to become free agents.

Then there is the chance that Huntington will try and bring back Byrd, Morneau, A.J. Burnett and Clint Barmes, the team’s four free agents. Byrd will be due for a hefty raise, while the other three will earn a lot less than they did this season if re-signed.

The point is that before Huntington ever thinks about signing any free agents or attempts to pull off any trades, the Pirates payroll is likely to grow substantially.

This team is built on their farm system, so locking up guys like Alvarez needs to be a top priority.

By the time all of that is done, you have to wonder how high this payroll can really go?

The good news is that there is now more money to spend. The bad news is that things don’t really change that much for the Pirates. They still won’t be in a position to hand out blank checks or overpay for players.

One thing is for sure though and that is the fact that the offseason will sure be interesting for Huntington and his staff. It will sure be a fun one to follow.

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Tags: Neal Huntington Pedro Alvarez Pittsburgh Pirates

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