For the first time in 15 years the New York Yankees are no longer tops in Major League Baseball (MLB) salary, falling to the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the Yankees Alex Rodriguez only taking home just under $2.9 million of his $25 million a year salary and the offseason signings by the Dodgers and the $24 million salary for pitcher Zack Greinke’s second season vaulted Los Angeles to the top of the list.
Rodriguez, who has been suspended for violations of baseball’s labor contract and drug agreement, will only be able to collect 21 days of his 2014 salary. This cut in salary lowered the Yankees to $204 million. The Dodgers came in on top with a projected $235 million salary. The Philadelphia Phillies came in third with a projected $180 million.
The last time the Yankees were not the kings of MLB salary, it was not the Los Angeles Dodgers that New York had fallen behind. In 1998, the Baltimore Oriels team salary of just over $74 million squeaked by the Yankees salary of just under $74 million.
The top team salaries have increased quite a bit over the last two decades. In 1995 the average salary for a player was at $1.07 million and six years later broke the $2 million dollar mark. These top salaries have increased by approximately $161 million going into the 2014 season.
The Dodgers 2014 team salary is hovering at about $4 million per player. To really put this in perspective, the average salary in the United States of America, according to the 2012 Census, is just under $42,500.
Greinke, who made $17 million his first year with the Dodgers also had a $12 million signing bonus as part of his six-year contract. However, MLB ruled that since he can opt out of his contract after the 2015 season, that signing bonus will be prorated for the first three seasons of the contract. With that prorated signing bonus, Greinke would have surpassed Rodriquez as the highest paid player in baseball this season. Rodriguez, even with his suspension, holds the salary record with his 10 year, $275 million contract.
Following Greinke in top salaries this season includes the Phillies’ Ryan Howard and Cliff Lee both receiving $25 million apiece, the Yankees’ CC Sabathia banking $24.3 million, and both Seattle’s Robinson Cano and Texas’ Prince Fielder taking home $24 million for 2014.
When Seattle spent the money on Cano, they also went after other players to help rebuild the franchise into an American League West threat. Seattle and Los Angeles were not the only clubs spending more money than in previous years. Many clubs have started making pushes this off-season to either sign big name players or strengthen their teams by adding a strong support staff around these big contract players.
With the fall of the New York Yankees to the Los Angeles Dodgers as the salary kings, it shows a positive growth for baseball. With the clubs attempting to build winning teams around these high-profile players and the economy getting stronger, this could result in one of the best seasons for baseball. Opening day is almost here.
Commentary by Carl Auer