NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers set a record with an opening-day payroll of $234 million Sunday, according to a study of big league contracts by The Associated Press.
The New York Yankees were a distant second at $199 million, ending their streak of six straight openers above the $200 million mark. The Yankees had topped the opening-day salary list for 15 straight years and had set the previous mark of $230 million last season.
Still, the Yankees far exceeded this year’s $189-million luxury tax threshold, which co-chairman Hal Steinbrenner insisted was a goal, not a mandate.
“Do you settle?” Steinbrenner said, according to the New York Post. “Or do you go out and get the best, which is what we did.”
The Dodgers spent more than five times the total of the Houston Astros, who at $45 million were last for the second straight year but vastly above their $27 million outlay on opening day last season. Miami, at $47 million, repeated in 29th place.
“I think we’ve all noticed,” San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said of the Dodgers’ spending splurge. “We can’t get caught into it. I’ve always preached this to the players: There’s no point in looking at what other clubs are doing or who they have, their assets, this and that. It’s what you believe in yourself and your focus always has to be on your club.”
Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke ended Alex Rodriguez’s 13-year streak as the highest-paid player, earning $28 million, including a prorated share of his signing bonus. He’s followed by Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard and Cliff Lee at $25 million each, the Yankees’ CC Sabathia at $24.3 million, and Seattle’s Robinson Cano and Texas’ Prince Fielder at $24 million apiece.
The average salary was $3.95 million for the 853 players on opening-day rosters and disabled lists, plus two players serving suspensions who earn part of their salaries. That was up 8.2 percent from last year’s opening average of $3.65 million, the steepest increase since 2006. More than half the players — 486 — earn $1 million or more.
And that doesn’t even include two big-money deals in the lead-up to Sunday night’s North American opener between the Dodgers and San Diego: In a pair of agreements Friday, Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera earned a $292 million, 10-year contract that adds eight additional seasons and $248 million to his existing deal, and young Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout reached a $144.5 million, six-year agreement that starts in 2015.
MLB’s median salary, the point where an equal number earn above and below, is $1,475,000 — up from $1,262,500 at the start of last season.
Average and median salaries decline over the course of the season as veterans are released and replaced by younger players making closer to the minimum, which is $500,000 this year. The players’ association calculated last season’s final average at $3.39 million, about $60,000 more than Major League Baseball’s figure.
The AP’s figures include salaries and prorated shares of signing bonuses and other guaranteed income for players on active rosters, disabled lists and the restricted list. For some players, parts of deferred money are discounted to reflect current values.
Payroll figures factor in adjustments for cash transactions in trades, signing bonuses that are the responsibility of the club agreeing to the contract, option buyouts and termination pay for released players.
Figures do not include players who started the season in the minor leagues, such as Atlanta pitcher Ervin Santana ($14.1 million) and Dodgers second baseman Alex Guerrero ($6.5 million).
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