Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Pirates Being Cheap Brats

You've probably heard by now.

Oliver Perez and Jason Bay both have less than three years of big-league service time, which means they aren't entitled to be paid any more than the major league minimum in 2005.

Many teams, including the Pirates, give some of their young players more than the minimum as a gesture of goodwill. For example, Tike Redman was paid $321,000, several thousand dollars above the minimum, to stink up the Pirates' lineup in 2004.

The issue, then, is not whether or not pay raises for players with no leverage is a good idea - the Pirates already give such raises. The issue is how lucrative these raises should be for Perez and Bay.

Under the current labor agreement, neither player has any leverage in negotiations, at least not as far as 2005 is concerned. Representatives of both players have expressed dissatisfaction at the Pirates' offers, however. It is their right to get petulant in haggling over salaries of players who already make about ten times what the average American makes in a year. Perez and Bay look slightly greedy and petty as a result, but it's their right to act that way if they so choose.

The Pirates look just as greedy, however, and worse, they look short-sighted. In the Kovacevic article linked above, Perez' agent Mike Fischlin points to Wade Miller's $525,000 contract in 2003 and Carlos Zambrano's $450,000 contract in 2004. The Pirates are currently offering Perez $381,000, which presumably means that Perez and the Pirates are less than $100,000 apart.

To any major league team, even a cheap one like the Pirates, $100,000 is chump change. $100,000 is two innings of Jose Mesa. I don't doubt that Perez and his agent will be inclined to seek a big payday once he becomes a free agent, but if he's happy in Pittsburgh, he'll surely think harder about the hometown discount contract the Pirates will surely offer him if he continues to pitch well. If the cost of a chunk of that happiness is only $100,000, that would be money well spent. Perez and Bay are two of only a few reasons to be excited about the future of the Pirates. They aren't entitled to ask for much, and they don't seem to be asking for much. Pay them.

UPDATE: In the comments, Ryan suggests that my original "Pirates Lowballing Perez, Bay" headline wasn't really accurate. I don't know of anyone who has done a coherent analysis of what sorts of salaries Bay and Perez should expect, but Ryan is probably right. I used the word carelessly - I meant it more as shorthand for "the Pirates are cheap," and didn't mean to suggest that the Pirates' offers were low compared to what we might expect. The bottom line is that $100,000 isn't a lot of money, and if that's the problem, just give Perez and Bay the $100,000. Perez and Bay are acting like jerks, but they're the future of the Pittsburgh franchise. If it only costs $100,000 to placate them, then do it, regardless of what they should expect to get.

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