Free agency kicked off last night at midnight. The Pirates have not signed John Lackey yet, and so I'm going to picket PNC Park when I'm home over Thanksgiving. OK, I'm being dramatic. Neal Huntington says he's going to move slowly, and that's the right approach for a team in the Pirates' position. Here are the position players and here are the pitchers that are free agents.
First off, here's the full list of minor league free agents. Maybe the next Garrett Jones is on there. Probably not, but maybe. More likely, there's one or two useful relievers on there.
Next up, I see a lot of people talking about Jayson Stark's story yesterday, in which he estimates that even the Pirates start every year with $80 million in pocket when you combine revenue sharing, the central fund, and local TV contracts (warning: annoying autoplay video at link). I won't dispute his math, which guesstimates about $30 million from the central fund, $35 million from revenue sharing, and $15 million as the low-end from the local TV contract. My question is this; how much are the high end TV deals? How much do teams that own theithe Yankees make from YES or do the Red Sox make from NESN or the Mets from SNY? This article from 2007 puts the Yankees profits from YES at $60 million, but that's only assuming the Yankees own a third of the network. Wikipedia says that both the Yankees and YES are owned by the same holding company (think the Sheinhardt Wig Company from 30 Rock), which means that Yankees' owners (Steinbrenner et al) might end up with three times that. The Red Sox own 80% of NESN, so their deal is likely similar while the Mets own an unspecified amount of SNY.
I'm not disputing that the Pirates should work towards a higher payroll, but small market and large market clubs have to operate in pretty different fashions to keep themselves from losing money. For the Pirates, the $60-$65 million they get from revenue sharing and the central fund is a huge part of their entire revenue for the season, while it's an incredibly small fraction of what other teams pull in. Obviously we're not going to know the real numbers, but most of the guys that own these teams didn't get rich from being free-spending idiots who flush tens or hundreds of millions of dollars away on their baseball team ever year. From Hank and Hal Steinbrenner to Bob Nutting, they're all trying to cut some kind of profit; the nature of the sport dictates that they do it differently.