By Mike Wysocki
Pittsburgh Current Baseball Writer
The Pirates arrived at the All-Star break on a hot streak.
After taking three of four from the Cubs and two-out-of-three from Milwaukee, the Battlin’ Bucs sit just two-and-a-half games behind the hated Cubs. Josh Bell and Felipe Vazquez both earned All-Star roster spots and not the ”everyone gets a trophy” pity kind like Evan Meek a decade ago. The Cubs spent $173 million dollars on their current 25-man roster and have $33 million on the injured list. The Pirates spent $47 million on their active squad while another $27 million is wasting away on the injured list.
Going into this weekend series in Chicago, the Cubs are barely in front and it cost them $130 million more. So is Bob Nutting the fool here? Maybe he’s a lucky, thrifty, genius. Three words that no Pittsburgher has ever used to describe him. Maybe genius is pushing it. So let’s look at the rival Cubs at the starting eight positions and see which owner is getting the better bargain.
Catcher. With Francisco Cervelli renouncing his position as catcher, Elias Diaz has officially taken over. Cervelli is the highest paid Pirate at $11.5 million. Being the highest paid Pirate is like being the world’s oldest man, your run can come to an end in a heartbeat. Diaz is good, but Wilson Contreras is better. Contreras makes a little more than Diaz and a ton less than Cervelli. So the Cubs win this battle.
First base. Anthony Rizzo is a proven major leaguer. This year he is hitting .279 with 19 homers and 58 RBI. Josh Bell’s numbers: .302 27 84. Rizzo makes over a million a month, $13 million total while Bell what almost every young Pirate makes, a little under $600K. Clearly, the Pirates take this round. Diaz, Frazier, Moran, Newman, and Bell all make the same amount. This reeks of socialism … and it appears to be working.
Second base. Adam Frazier is hitting .287 with four knocks and 26 runs batted in. Addison Russell is hitting forty points lower with one more homer and half the RBI and makes $3 million a year. Frazier is better this year and doesn’t have a police record as Russell does, sooo, advantage Pirates.
Shortstop. Kevin Newman is in consideration for Rookie of the Year if teammate Bryan Reynolds doesn’t beat him out. Newman is hitting .327 with six dingers at a rookie salary. Despite that, the Cubs still take this one. Javy Baez is hitting .289 with 22 home runs and makes $5 million, half what Cervelli makes.
Third base. Colin Moran has grabbed the hot corner and looks like he might keep it for a while. Moran has inched his average up to almost .300 and has ten home runs and five more RBI than the Cubs Kris Bryant. Bryant has won a World Series and an MVP and is paid well for it at $13 million a year. He has the same average as Moran and just seven more long balls. Bryant is the better player, but Moran is a much better bargain. I’m Calling this one a draw.
Left field. Corey Dickeson has missed most of the season so far while being in the elite salary range for the Pirates. The Bucs spend $8 million on him and a kinda cool $1.5 million on Melky Cabrera. That might be the best million and a half spent in the entire offseason. Kyle Schwarber makes $3 million, has more power than both of them, but the Bucs win this battle. The Pirates left fielder are both better all-around hitters.
Center. Starling Marte is the second-highest paid Buc at $10 million. That would make him one the top-ten salaried Cubs, but just barely. Marte may be one of the most underappreciated ballplayers anywhere. You never see anyone in a Marte number 6 jersey. Every year he produces solid numbers and is way better than the Cubs’ Almora in every category.
Right field. Bryan Reynolds is so hot right now. He’s been keeping up his ridiculous batting average all the way to the break. A .342 average and .950 OPS sound like Stan Musial numbers. We’ll see if he keeps it up, but the Bucs definitely win this position too. Jason Heyward is a decent outfielder, he’s hitting .266 with 14 homers, but makes $20 million dollars a year. No Pirate in the history of Pirates has ever made that much in a year. That’s a little less than the Bucs entire starting eight.
Pennant fever may soon be upon us. While, pitching is another issue entirely, head to head offensively, the Bucs have just as good a team for $130 million less. And they don’t have that stupid victory song, I hate the Cubs so much.