Regardless, the point is that the Pirates, for all of their faults over the last few seasons
You mean 19?
The point is the Pirates are one of the most profitable franchises because a) they use the revenue sharing to their advantage, b) They realize that you have diminishing returns the more you spend on player contracts in regard to revenue generation. If you don't care to win, you can still make crazy tons of money convincing people to see your product - because they are still an MLB caliber team thanks to the draft system and paying league minimum.
You don't need to spend more money on contracts. Yes, you need to if you want to be one of the popular teams, but you're better off spending the money on the business side and hiring 30 salesmen and 25 analysts = 55 Salaries x an avg salary of 55,000 a year totaling $3M than hiring Braden Looper to throw some balls around for you for a season.
Now I'm not saying the Pirates are a model franchise, but they do their strategy well, and the Marlins have also taken a crappy team and made it the talk of the town. Look, if MLB was really the selling point of the Marlins, then why is there a giant sculpture in CF, with fish tanks behind the plate, and a dance club in the corner OF? With the new Miami park, the baseball team is really just an attraction because its popular in the sense its a national sports team, but the real goal is just to sell you a bunch of crap you don't need or lure you to be entertained by cheerleaders and fish races.