Baseball Payrolls Way Down

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

NEW YORK (AP) - The recession has hit baseball salaries.

Teams cut payrolls for their active rosters and disabled lists by $47 million from opening day in 2008 to the first day of this season, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. That comes out to a drop of 1.7 percent.

"Clubs were cautious all winter with regards to the economy and were concerned the economy might have an impact on club revenue," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer. "The spending reflected that for many clubs."

The drop is the first since 2004 and just the second since the 1994-95 strike.

Looking at payroll team by team, 16 of the 30 major league clubs cut payroll. Among those who lowered spending - the mighty New York
Yankees.

While the Yankees led the major leagues with a $201.4 million payroll, they trimmed salaries by $7.6 million from the start of last season. The difference is that while they added high-priced free agents CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira, they also let Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu and Carl Pavano leave, watched Mike Mussina retire and more than halved pitcher Andy Pettitte's guaranteed pay.

Others cut more, led by San Diego ($30.9 million), the Chicago White Sox ($25.1 million), Detroit ($23.6 million) and Seattle ($19.1 million).

The 14 who increased salaries were led by AL champion Tampa Bay
($19.5 million), the Chicago Cubs ($16.5 million), Florida ($15.0
million), and World Series champion Philadelphia ($14.7 million).

"The company would have had every right to reduce the payroll until the new owner came," said Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, whose team is in the process of being sold from Sam Zell's Tribune Co. to a group headed by Tom Ricketts, a member of the founding family of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp.

Instead, the Cubs invested in switch-hitter Milton Bradley to try and break their more than century-long streak without a World Series title.

And while the 10 highest spenders lowered payroll by an average of $7.8 million, the 10 lowest raised spending by an average of $4.5 million, a small step toward commissioner Bud Selig's goal of closing the gap between rich and poor teams.

"We're seeing a continuation of the trend of mid- and small-market teams developing their own talent and keeping their own talent," DuPuy said, "and I think that's reflected in the totals that you see."

The slow free-agent market, meanwhile, has drawn the attention of the players' association, but it has not yet decided whether to file a collusion grievance.

"Obviously, there were a lot of economic conditions going on," union head Donald Fehr said. "My guess is not the same factors were considered by everyone, but I don't know that to be the case."

On the highest payroll list, the Yankees were followed by the crosstown rival Mets at $135.7 million. Both teams move into revenue-boosting new ballparks this season.

The Cubs are third at $135.1 million, followed by Boston ($123 million), Detroit ($115 million), the Los Angeles Angels ($113.7 million) and Philadelphia ($113 million).

Figures don't include termination pay to released players, such as $13.6 million Gary Sheffield is owed by Detroit, so the Tigers' spending is closer to $129 million.

The lowest spenders are Florida ($37 million), San Diego ($43 million) and Pittsburgh ($49 million).

While overall payroll is down, the average player salary is up 2.7 percent to $3.24 million. That's because there are fewer players in the major leagues getting checks right now.

Just 69 players started the season on disabled lists, down from 106 last year. With fewer injured players, teams have called up fewer low-paid minor leaguers to replace them.

Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees, on the disabled list following hip surgery, is the game's highest-paid player with a $33 million salary, topping the major leagues for the ninth straight year. The Dodgers' Manny Ramirez was second at $23.9 million, followed by Yankees teammates Derek Jeter ($21.6 million) and Mark Teixeira ($20.6 million).

A majority of players, 433 of 818, make at least $1 million, one fewer than last year's record. A record 86 were at $10 million or more, an increase of one.

Fifty-eight players are at the $400,000 minimum this year. The median salary, the point at which at equal numbers are above and below, rose $150,000 to a record $1.15 million.

The average salary decreases throughout the season as veterans are released and replaced by younger players. It finished last season at $2,925,679, according to the players' association, and $2,836,205, according to Major League Baseball. The figures vary because of different methods of calculation.


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