— Sports

AP study: MLB salary down 4.8% in 2 years; top 100 earn half

NEW YORK (AP) – The average major league salary dropped 4.8% to just under $4.17 million on opening day from the start of the previous season in 2019. According to a study of major league contracts by The Associated Press, the average had fallen 6.4% since the beginning of 2017, when it peaked at $4.45 million. The salary downturn is yet another sign baseball could be headed toward labor strife and a possible work stoppage in 2022. Baseball’s middle class has borne the brunt of the drop. The median salary at which an equal number of players are above and below is $1.15 million, down 18% from $1.4 million two years ago and a drop of 30% from the $1.65 million record high at the start of 2015.

Of 902 players on opening-day rosters, 417 (62%) had salaries under $1 million, including 316 (35%) under $600,000. The 50 highest-paid players are receiving 33.4% of all wages, up from 28.6% in 2017, and the 100 highest-paid are receiving 52.4%, an increase from 42.5% in 2017.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer is the highest-paid player in 2021 at $38 million; after agreeing to a $102 million, three-year contract, he can terminate after one season. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout is second at $37.1 million, followed by Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole ($36 million) and St. Louis third baseman Nolan Arenado ($35 million), who was acquired in an offseason trade with Colorado.

The World Series champion Dodgers topped the major leagues at $241 million, the highest big league total since the Dodgers set the record at $270 million in the 2015 season.

Players are unhappy with the salary slide under the current collective bargaining agreement, even before last year’s pandemic-shortened season, and intend to press for changes during labor talks this year to replace the contract that expires Dec. 1.

The average was just over $500,000 when AP started its salary studies in 1989 and went down just twice before 2017: After the 1994-95 strike and between the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

This year’s average was depressed by the opening-day absence of Houston pitcher Jake Odorizzi, who was left off the initial roster, and infielder Rougned Odor, who had been designated for assignment by Texas and later was traded to the New York Yankees. Their presence on opening day would have increased by an average of roughly $24,000, cutting the drop over two years to 4.2%.

Add the money Boston owes the second baseman Dustin Pedroia on the voluntary retired list after missing most of the prior three seasons while hurt. The average would have been down 3.9% to $4.2 million. Termination pay, option buyouts, and portions of signing bonuses paid to released players are not included in the average.

In addition, the average likely was lowered slightly by the expansion of active rosters to 26, which probably caused teams to add 30 players making near the $570,500 minimum.

The New York Yankees are second at $201 million, and the New York Mets, under new owner Steven Cohen, are third at $186 million. The Angels are next at $181 million, followed by Washington ($179.6 million), Boston ($179.5 million), Houston ($176.5 million), San Diego ($175.7 million), and Philadelphia ($174.8 million).

Twelve teams are under $100 million, with Pittsburgh at $46 million, the lowest on opening day in an entire season since Houston’s $44.6 million in 2014. Slightly above the Pirates are Cleveland ($51 million), Baltimore ($56 million), and Miami ($57 million).

Last year’s salaries were cut to 60/162nd because of the shortened season and cannot be compared with other years.

Average and median salaries decline throughout the season as veterans are released and replaced by younger players making it closer to the minimum.

The AP’s figures include salaries, prorated shares of signing bonuses, and other guaranteed income for players on active rosters and injured lists and one who started the season on the paternity list. Some players’ parts of deferred money are discounted to reflect current values.

Luxury tax payrolls computed by Major League Baseball are different, using average annual contracts on 40-man rosters plus about $15 million per team for benefits and extended benefits.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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