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Owner wary of payroll imbalance

BRADENTON, Fla. — Having watched the San Diego Padres reach a $300 million, 10-year deal with Manny Machado, Pirates owner Bob Nutting doesn’t think it makes sense for Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington to add a pricey free agent.

A huge salary could cause the portion paid to one player to be “overweight.”

“You get an imbalanced payroll, that you have much more challenging team dynamic, much more challenging clubhouse dynamic, much more limitation in crafting an overall roster that can bring a championship,” Nutting said Wednesday. “I’m not sure that that necessarily makes a team more competitive and more ready to win a championship.”

Pittsburgh was 82-79 last year for its fourth winning record in 26 years. The Pirates acquired two-time All-Star right-hander Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays last summer and reliever Keone Kela from the Texas Rangers.

Attendance dropped by 450,000 from 2017 and the lowest since 1996, and Nutting hopes for a rebound. Nutting thinks the Pirates can contend in the NL Central, where four of the five teams had winning records last season.

“The expectation of the fan base should be that we put a competitive team on the field that is built to win,” Nutting said. “That’s what their expectations deserve to be. Frankly, I think that a seven-game improvement last year was a meaningful step forward, and we are absolutely positioned to take another meaningful step forward and get us back into that range where we have a very good shot at playoffs and, once you get into the playoffs, of moving down the pike.”

Pittsburgh was 26th among the 30 teams in payroll last year at $90.6 million for its 40-man roster and again will have one of the lowest. That makes Nutting rather unpopular with many fans.

“I think the only piece that worries me is to the extent that it negatively impacts the club,” Nutting said. “And that’s unfortunate and up to me to do everything I can to make sure that the degree of commitment that I show — and I’ll say show as opposed to have, because I deeply believe that I am fully committed to this organization and to its success and devote all the energy I possibly can to seeing that happen — if I need to be more effective to communicate that in order to help and support the team, that’s on me.”

Notes: Archer threw batting practice for the first time this spring training. He underwent hernia surgery in November but is fully recovered. … RF Gregory Polanco is taking batting practice as he rehabilitates following left shoulder surgery in October, but he is throwing from just 100 feet. He is expected to begin the season on the injured list. … RHP Chad Kuhl, who underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss the season, made 50 throws off flat ground from 60 feet.

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