Dodgers set MLB record payroll at $270M; average is $4.2M
NEW YORK (AP) The Los Angeles Dodgers set a baseball record with a $270 million opening-day payroll, including nearly $44 million going to players no longer on the team.
Major League Baseball's average salary on opening day Sunday also set a mark at $4.2 million, according to calculations by The Associated Press. That is up 6.3 percent from last year's opening average of $3.95 million and is a 15 percent rise over two years.
"It's a shocking number for the average family to think about," Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "But overall it's a good thing. It's a reflection of the health of the sport."
The Dodgers' payroll, up from $234 million at the start of last season, includes $43.8 million for 2015 to cover the costs of Brian Wilson and Dustin McGowan, who were released; Matt Kemp, Dan Haren and Dee Gordon, who were traded; and Chad Billingsley, who was owed a buyout when his option was declined.
"The Dodgers' ownership and the front office have done a great job of collecting players, and they've shown that they're willing to spend money for what it takes to win and what they deem is the best team," Los Angeles catcher A.J. Ellis said.
The New York Yankees, whose 15-year streak as the top spender was stopped the Dodgers last year, are second at $219 million, followed by Boston ($175 million), World Series champion San Francisco ($173.2 million) and Detroit ($172.8 million).
Washington was sixth at $166 million more than $100 million less the Dodgers.
At the bottom are Houston ($69.1 million) and Miami ($69.2 million). The Mets ($100.1 million) reached $100 million for the first time since 2011.
A record 508 players earn $1 million or more.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw makes the most at $31 million, followed by injured Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander ($28 million), Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke ($27 million) and injured Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton ($25.4 million).
"Me, probably like the majority of guys in here, came from a middle-class family. My father was a police officer, my mother worked in school system, and if you would have told me that one day I'd be making the type of money that I'm making now, I would told you that you're crazy and laughed at you," New York Mets captain David Wright said. "It's pretty surreal, but to be honest with you, I'd like to think that I don't think about it that much. You play the game, I still haven't thought about this as like a job."
The average of $4,199,030 would have been even more if high-priced Cuban rookies Yasmany Tomas and Rusney Castillo had not been demoted to the minor leagues and if Cody Ross had not been released by Arizona. The average also was depressed by 115 players on the disabled list, 14 more than at the start of last season, which causes teams to fill their spots with lower-priced players.
Among the major North American leagues, the NBA has the highest average salary at $5 million this season, according to its players' union. That figure is boosted by the league's maximum roster of 13 active players per team.
The NHL Players Association calculates the league average at $2.58 million in 2013-14, the last season available, and the NFL Players Association figures the 2014 average at $2.016 million,
MLB's median salary, the point where an equal number earn above and below, is $1.65 million up from $1,475,000 at the start of last season. The NFL median was $839,000 last year.
There are 27 players making $20 million or more and 123 at $10 million or higher. Just 46 MLB players are at this year's minimum of $507,500.
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. The players' association calculated last season's final average at $3.82 million, about $90,000 more than MLB's figure.
The AP's figures include salaries and prorated shares of signing bonuses and other guaranteed income for 868 players on active rosters and disabled lists and three on 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.
AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.