The Pirates are next in MLBTR’s 2013 Contract Issues series:
Eligible For Free Agency (5)
- Erik Bedard - Bedard was starting to look like an appealing midseason trade candidate, but he left his most recent start with back spasms. There's no guarantee he'll finish this season in Pittsburgh, so it'd be premature to assume he'll play on next year's Pirates team.
- Juan Cruz - Cruz owns a respectable 11K/6BB ratio and has allowed just one run in 14 innings. He'll be looking at a one-year deal this offseason and won't necessarily obtain a guaranteed roster spot, so the Pirates may try to re-sign him to a low-risk contract.
- Jason Grilli - Grilli has 23 strikeouts and a 2.77 ERA after 13 innings. The Pirates may well want to retain him for another year as well.
- Nate McLouth - McLouth has struggled in his return to Pittsburgh, but in theory he could be a solid extra outfielder.
- Kevin Correia - The Pirates figure to be looking for starting pitching depth this offseason. Correia could be a fit, but it seems unlikely the Pirates would choose to make him a major commitment given that his fastball velocity and strikeout rate have dropped off so far in 2012. None of the players above figure to see qualifying offers from the Pirates when they hit free agency.
Contract Options (2)
- Rod Barajas: $3.5MM club option with no buyout becomes a mutual option after a trade. Walk-off home runs aside, it's been a slow start at the plate for Barajas, who has a .472 OPS so far in 2012. It's still early enough for the veteran catcher to make that $3.5MM figure seem reasonable, however.
- Pedro Alvarez: $700K club option. Exercising Alvarez's option figures to be a formality, especially if he continues to hit for power.
Arbitration Eligible (9)
- First time: James McDonald, Neil Walker
- Second time: Casey McGehee, Charlie Morton, Garrett Jones, Evan Meek, Chris Resop
- Third time: Joel Hanrahan, Jeff Karstens
The Pirates are up against a relatively large and expensive projected arbitration class. McDonald and Walker are on track for salaries north of $2MM as first-time eligible players and the rest are on track for raises. However, this group could be thinned out in the coming months. McGehee and Jones could be on the non-tender bubble by December's deadline and Hanrahan is a trade candidate who might be playing elsewhere a few months from now. If the Pirates keep everyone this arbitration class could get expensive quickly, since every player but Meek and Resop will be in line for at least $2MM in 2013.
2013 Payroll Obligation
The Pirates' payroll is up to $52MM this year, but it remains one of the lowest payrolls in MLB. They have committed $19.375MM to next year's team, so GM Neal Huntington should have payroll flexibility this coming offseason, assuming some arbitration eligible players don't return.