Average salary closing in on $3M


NEW YORK (AP) – Baseball’s average salary soared 9 percent this year to nearly $2.9 million, with Alex Rodriguez topping a sport in which more than half the players on opening-day rosters make $1 million or more.

Rodriguez headed the list at $25.7 million and was No. 1 for the sixth straight year, according to a study of major league contracts by The Associated Press. He was followed by New York Yankees teammates Derek Jeter ($20.6 million) and Jason Giambi ($20.4 million).

San Francisco’s Barry Bonds was fourth at $20 million, and Houston’s Jeff Bagwell – who might not play because of a shoulder injury – was next at $19.3 million.

“Baseball had record crowds last year,” Giambi said. “Probably with Barry going to break the (home run) record, it will bump it up and more people will come out and watch it. That makes players more popular, and in turn guys make more money.”

This year’s record $2,866,544 average was up 8.9 percent from last year’s figure of $2,632,655.

The Yankees’ payroll dropped a bit to $198.7 million from $205.9 million on opening day last year. Boston was second again at $120.1 million, followed by the Los Angeles Angels ($103.6 million), the World Series champion Chicago White Sox ($102.9 million) and the New York Mets ($100.9 million).

Payroll figures don’t include cash transactions, such as money the Yankees are receiving from Texas for Rodriguez and the White Sox are getting from Philadelphia for Jim Thome.

At the other end were the Florida Marlins at just under $15 million, including 17 players making the $327,000 minimum. It’s the lowest figure for any team at the start of a season since Pittsburgh and Montreal in 1998. It’s also less than the top 12 players make and 1/13th of what the Yankees pay their roster.

While the biggest spenders kept their payrolls pretty much at the same levels as last year, many teams at the bottom made boosts. Toronto added free-agent pitchers A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan, and catcher Bengie Molina, among others, hiking its payroll to $71.9 million from $45.4 million. Eleven of the bottom 15 teams increased spending. Baseball’s labor contract expires Dec. 19, and the sport’s economic system will be negotiated again by players and owners. “There are still concerns at both the top and the bottom,” said Bob DuPuy, baseball’s chief operating officer. “The goal would be to get a tighter range that would ensure that even more than 20 clubs at Labor Day still have a chance to compete for playoff spots, that playoff spots are based on skill and talent and blossoming stars and not just on plugging holes with economics.”

Oakland, 21st at $62.3 million, still has little margin for error. Some of the high-spending clubs, such as the Yankees, complain that the smaller-market franchises haven’t spent their revenue-sharing money on major league payrolls.

“Certain teams are funneling it back in the right ways and there are some teams that aren’t,” Athletics outfielder Mark Kotsay said.

In a sign that the money is being spread out, the number of players making $1 million or more rose from 390 to 409 – still shy of the record 425 in 2001. The median salary – the point at which an equal amount of players fall above and below – rose to $1 million from $850,000, breaking the previous high of $975,000 set in 2001.

Figures for the study included salaries and prorated shares of signing bonuses and other guaranteed income for the 813 players on opening-day rosters and disabled lists. For some players, parts of salaries deferred without interest or with minimal interest were discounted to present-day value.

AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in Oakland, Calif., contributed to this report.

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