Ya know, ol' Green Weenie can't help but to look at the rest of the free-spending Central Division and wonder how the penny-pinching Pirates fit in.
The Central King-Kong is Chicago. The Cubs have $104M+ invested in just in eight players: Carlos Zambrano, Derek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, and Carlos Silva (they took on his bad contract in exchange for Milton Bradley's bad contract and $9M).
They haven't made any real moves except for signing Marlon Byrd for $3M and John Grabow for $3.5M.
Overall, their contracted obligation is $124,625,000 for eleven signed players; they have eight more guys entering arbitration. Estimated Payroll: $140M
Then there's St. Louis. They just signed Matt Holliday to a seven year, $120M contract. The holy trinity of Holliday, Albert Pujols, and Chris Carpenter will earn $47.5M this year.
The Cards have a $81,287,500 commitment to a dozen players this season and two arbitration-eligible players. Estimated Payroll: $100M
The Astros? They don't have the long green to bring in a big gun; heck, they have $48M tied up this year in just Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, and Roy Oswalt. Geez, it was all they could do ink Brandon Lyon to a three year, $15M contract.
So far, they owe $74,106,500 to twelve players in 2010, and have six guys entering arbitration. Estimated Payroll: $93M
Milwaukee's big signings were lefty Randy Wolf for three years, $29.75M, LaTroy Hawkins for two years and $7.5M, and resigning Trevor Hoffman for another $7.5M.
The Brew Crew has $62,987,500 payable to ten players under contract this season with three guys due arbitration. Estimated Payroll: $80M
Look at our Ohio rivals, the Cincy Reds. Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated just tweeted that they are on the verge of signing Cuban fastballer Aroldis Chapman for a guaranteed five year, $30M deal.
Hey, he's a 22 year-old lefty that hits 102 MPH; some people think he's the second coming of Randy Johnson. Stephen Strasburg, last year's numero uno, looks like a bargain at a mere $15M. We won't even bring up the peanuts involved in the Miguel Sano bidding war.
They have $63,879,167 committed to ten players in 2010; three of the remainder are due for arbitration. But they're a young team, and like the Bucs, feature a lot of players under team control. Estimated Payroll: $73.5M
Hey, Pittsburgh added $4M+ to its payroll when it dealt for Akinori Iwamura; of course, they made a big chunk of that up by releasing Matt Capps.
The Bucs have $20,525,000 due to eight players under contract; Zach Duke is due arbitration. Estimated Payroll: $34M
We don't really think any deep analysis is needed. The Buc payroll is less than half of the next lowest in the division. That's OK for now.
Here's the upcoming conundrum: all the players the Pirates have under control will sooner or later become eligible for arbitration and real contracts. They're in decent shape for the next couple of years, but then the young talent they've been hoarding will come due for major league salaries. That's when the salary gap will become unsustainable.
And that's when we'll find out if the Pirates can compete financially or will just continue their hamster-wheel existence of dealing players for prospects.
EDIT - Guys, sorry that I ended up with a modestly expanded version of Dejan Kovacevic's article from Sunday's Post Gazette. That's what I get for watching football all day instead of checking out the local sports before I post!
(Contract and payroll figures were taken from Cot's Contracts. The payrolls are based on 25-man rosters.)