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MLB Payrolls Plunge for First Time Since 2010


Major League Baseball spending on payrolls plunged the most last season since 2010. Its payroll expenses dropped by $18 million because of delinquent players who were suspended for drug use and domestic violence. During the midseason, the retirement of an MLB player also affected the payroll spending by teams. The baseball league endured the same problem before wherein spending on payrolls dropped by $3 million in 2010 and $32 million in 2004.


Analyzing MLB Payroll Activity

The decline resulted in a weak free-agent class during the offseason. According to The Associated Press, Major league teams shelled out a shared contribution of about $4.23 billion on payroll in 2018. Closer Roberto Osuna lost approximately $2.1 million from Houston and Toronto after being suspended for domestic violence. After being suspended for drug use, catcher Welington Castillo of White Sox lost about $3.5 million and baseman Robinson Cano with approximately $11.7 million. After a hip injury by outfielder Colby Rasmus of Baltimore, he opted to retire with about $1.5 million instead of returning to the field.

Since 1976 when MLB used free-agents, Boston’s payroll took flight at about 230 million dollars as the World Series champion. The 24 teams were recorded to have $100 million spending on payrolls, with Red Sox being at the bottom of the list among MLB team since 2012. The efficiency of MLB teams with high revenues has fluctuated after the additional charges or increases in luxury tax in 2017.

MLB’s deputy commissioner, Dan Halem, shared that “although the top payroll in 2018 was the lowest since 2012, the average payroll has increased significantly, which means MLB has had payroll compression which is a good thing for competitive balance.” The share of revenues that circulate between major leagues and minor leagues was 54.2 percent last year and in 2012. He estimated 2018’s revenue increase to $9.4 billion from 2017’s $9.1 billion. In 2012, MLB pinned the average growth of salary at 29.1 percent and an average increase of luxury tax at 28.4 percent.

While union head Tony Clark refused to share his thoughts, agent Scott Boras said “the luxury tax, the new elements have dramatically quelled the market. The allocation of revenues to payroll has gone down.” The fact remains that the pace of free-agent signings during the off-season has slowed down. Agent and CAA Baseball co-head Jeff Berry wrote a memo about addressing this issue last year. It included suggestion such as “boycotting marketing appearances and delaying arrival at spring training until the mandatory report date.”

He wrote saying that “despite increasing MLB revenues and franchise valuations, in this new world order of analytics, aging curves, tanking shifting, bull-penning, declining attendance, and declining salaries, players should and do feel vulnerable and unsure. Rather than saber rattling about a potential strike in three years, the focus should be on taking pro-active steps to address current labor issues in the hope of avoiding a strike in 2021.”


Ranking MLB Teams Based on Payroll Spending

MLB payrolls include salaries, prorated shares, signing bonuses, earned incentive bonuses, compensation, buyouts, and cash transactions for a roster of 40 people.

Behind Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants fell at second place with a payroll of about $210 million. Chicago Cubs was on third place with a payroll of $199 million. Los Angeles Dodgers followed Chicago Cubs at approximately $196 million. Fifth place went to Washington Nationals at $185 million, while the New York Yankees was on sixth place at about $183 million. New York Yankees were once on the ninth place at 34.5 million in 1992 after the suspension of owner George Steinbrenner that lasted for two and a half years. Los Angeles on the seventh place at $177 million, St Louis Cardinals on the eighth place at 166 million dollars, and Seattle on the tenth place at $162 million.

Other MLB teams below the first ten teams include Colorado Rockies on fourteenth place at $148 million, Cleveland Indians on fifteenth place at 146 million dollars, Milwaukee Brewers on twenty-second place at $108 million, Oakland Athletics on twenty-eighth place at $78 million, and Tampa Bay Rays at the bottom of the list at $75.1 million.


MLB Enduring Through the Years

In an analysis made by the player’s association, the average salary was calculated to have plummeted for the fourth time in the past fifty years since 1967 when average salaries were being tracked and recorded. Spending on payroll fell for the first time since 2004. The union illustrates a series of records that previously demonstrated a decline in spending on payrolls. In 1987, payrolls expenses dropped by $66. The investigation revealed that there was a conspiracy between the owners and free agents to lessen or decrease the salaries being given to teams and players. In 1995, there was a payroll decrease of about 5 percent and about 2.5 percent in 2004.

From the number of players of rosters or 968 players on the major league and disabled lists, MLB calculated an estimated average of $4 million in 2018 as opposed to the $3 million in 2017. MLB does not have option buyouts in its average estimations, unlike the average calculations of the union.