NEW YORK -- The average major league salary jumped nearly 9 percent to $2.87 million on Opening Day, and the three highest-paid
players were -- you guessed it -- all on the New York Yankees.
Alex Rodriguez topped the list at $25.7 million and was No. 1 for the sixth straight year, according to a study of major league contracts by The Associated Press. Derek Jeter was next at $20.6 million, followed by Jason Giambi at $20.4 million.
"Baseball had record crowds last year," Giambi said.
"Probably with Barry going to break the [home run] record, it will
bump it up and more people will come out and watch it. That makes
players more popular, and in turn guys make more money."
This year's $2,866,544 average was up 8.9 percent from last
year's figure of $2,632,655.
The Yankees' payroll dropped a bit to $198.7 million from $205.9
million on Opening Day last year. Boston was second again at $120.1
million, followed by the Los Angeles Angels ($103.6 million), the
World Series champion Chicago White Sox ($102.9 million) and the New York Mets ($100.9 million).
Payroll figures don't include cash transactions, such as money
the Yankees are receiving from Texas for Rodriguez and the White
Sox are getting from Philadelphia for Jim Thome.
At the other end were the Florida Marlins at just under $15
million, including 17 players making the $327,000 minimum. It's the
lowest figure for any team at the start of a season since
Pittsburgh and Montreal in 1998. It's also less than the top 12
players make and 1/13th of what the Yankees pay their roster.
While the biggest spenders kept their payrolls pretty much at the same levels as last year, many teams at the bottom made boosts.
Toronto added free-agent pitchers A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan, and
catcher Bengie Molina, among others, hiking its payroll to $71.9
million from $45.4 million.
Eleven of the bottom 15 teams increased spending. Baseball's
labor contract expires Dec. 19, and the sport's economic system
will be negotiated again by players and owners.
"There are still concerns at both the top and the bottom," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer. "The goal would be to get a tighter range that would ensure that even more than 20 clubs at Labor Day still have a chance to compete for
playoff spots, that playoff spots are based on skill and talent and
blossoming stars and not just on plugging holes with economics."
Oakland, 21st at $62.3 million, still has little margin for error. Some of the high-spending clubs, such as the Yankees,
complain that the smaller-market franchises haven't spent their
revenue-sharing money on major league payrolls.
"Certain teams are funneling it back in the right ways and there are some teams that aren't," Athletics outfielder Mark Kotsay said. "I think this club in the last couple of years has
definitely shed that. They've used the money in revenue sharing and
put it back into players' salaries."
In a sign that the money is being spread out, the number of players making $1 million or more rose from 390 to 409 -- still shy of the record 425 in 2001. The median salary -- the point at which an equal amount of players fall above and below -- rose to $1 million from $850,000, breaking the previous high of $975,000 set in 2001.
Figures for the study included salaries and prorated shares of
signing bonuses and other guaranteed income for the 813 players on Opening-Day rosters and disabled lists. For some players, parts of
salaries deferred without interest or with minimal interest were
discounted to present-day value.