The average salary in Major League Baseball increased at its lowest levels in 2008 since salaries dipped below the previous year in the season ending in 2004.
According to this year’s annual report by the MLB Players Association, the average salary for the season ending in 2008 was $2,925,679 or an increase of 3.57 percent from the year prior. To place this in perspective, salaries increased league-wide by 4.65 percent in 2007 ($2,824,751), 8.99 percent in 2006 ($2,699,292), 7.05 percent in 2005 ($2,476,589), and -2.47 percent in 2004 ($2,313,535), the last decline in salary from the year prior for the league since 1996. 1
At the club level, the New York Yankees remain the salary leader for the 30 teams throughout MLB posting $6,862,918 in average salary, a decline of just over $600,000 from the year prior, or a decline of 8.1 percent for a roster that was comprised of 32 players.
In a negative sign for those bidding on the purchase of the Chicago Cubs, the Loveable Losers average player salary moved them from 5th in 2007 to second behind only the Yankees in 2008. The Cubs posted an average salary $4,675,883 for 29 players, or an increase of 19.8 percent compared to 2007 when the average salary for the club was $3,903,005.
According to the MLBPA’s figures, thirteen clubs lowered the average amount for player payroll from the year prior with the Red Sox leading the pack (down $1,259,539 or 23.1 percent for 33 players), followed by Orioles (down $1,053,998 or 34.6 percent for 33 players from the year prior), and Giants (down $701,176 or 22.7 percent for 29 players from the year prior). By comparison, in 2007, the Astros were the only club to lower average player payroll by 7-figures down $1,381,388 from 2006).
By position, the 8 players at the DH position that played more than 80 games garnered the largest average payroll ($7,506,036 down from $8,488,360 the year prior) followed first base players that played 100 games or more at ($7,118,519 for 24 players up from $5,683,345 from the year prior)
In an interesting comparison, at third base the average salary was $4,992,301 for 13 players in the NL compared to a staggering $8,893,924for 9 players in the AL garnered with the figure undoubtedly skewed by Alex Rodriguez league leading salary.
On the pitching front, the average salary for the league increased for both starters (19 or more starts) and relievers (10 or less starts; 25 or more relief appearances).
For starting pitchers, the average salary was $4,429,366 compared to $4,256,406 or an increase of 3.9 percent while relievers saw an average salary $1,859,796 up from $1,655,710 or an increase of 12.33 percent.
With the small increase in average salary for the league, questions arise as to whether the economy was already influencing the market last season, well ahead of the steep declines that started in Sept. with the crash of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Reached for comment by Ronald Blum of The AP, Donald Fehr, the executive director of the MLBPA was not reading too much into it.
“I’m not sure that year-to-year movements necessarily tell us very much,” Fehr said. “Obviously, salaries went up, revenues went up, and we would like to see that trend continue.”
1 Salary figures have been discounted for deferrals without interest, buyouts and signing bonuses increased at a rate of 9% for the period of delayed or advanced payments.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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