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Inside the Numbers: 2010 MLB Opening Day Payrolls PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 20 April 2010 00:46

The Biz of Baseball - ExclusiveOpening Day salary figures for Major League Baseball is a case of painting a couple of different pictures: It often shows intent of a club based on off-season acquisition or salary dump. One is a case of a club being in what they see as a window of opportunity to make a run at the playoffs while the other is normally a sign of rebuilding. The figures can also be a sign of backloaded multi-year contracts coming into full maturation. In other words, a large player payroll isn’t always a good thing as it can signal a club being hamstrung with little to no payroll flexibility for that season, or possibly seasons after.

USA Today released their annual payroll figures for MLB and with it, we can get a good measure of what clubs are spending. It isn’t a perfect picture as deferments, bonuses, and “dead contracts” are not included (as an example, Braves CEO Terry McGuirk said to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, "That’s not right," in reference to the Braves figure for 2010. "That ($84.4 million) doesn’t even make any sense, from an accounting standpoint. They’re drawing off of some database that MLB has, and whatever snapshot they got, that’s not correct. Our (payroll) will have a 9 in front of it."

You want a good example of what is really going on with player payroll; check this fantastic running total example on the Dodgers by True Blue LA.

But, based on the figures (see details), you can get a good measure of where teams are going. Based on USA Today's numbers, the total Opening Day payroll for the league is $2,717,766,875, a 2.35 percent increase from $2,655,395,194 for 2009. Sixteen clubs see salary increases from the year prior compared to 14 seeing declines. The league average at the beginning of the season was $90,592,229 compared to $88,513,173 at the beginning of the 2009 season. Looking back historically to 2003, when accounting for inflation, total salary has risen 29 percent for the league.

Yankees Salary Data
Select the image to see details on the
Yankees compared to MLB average

Leading the way (again) is the New York Yankees with a $206,333,389 total payroll, a 2.42 percent increase from the $201,449,189 Opening Day figure for the Bronx Bombers for 2009. The 2010 figure is nearly 2 1/3 times higher than the league average. Looking at The Biz of Baseball’s MLB Salary Database, the last time the Yankees didn’t hold the top spot was 1996 when the Orioles held that distinction.

(Select the image provided to see details on the Yankees payroll, 2003-10 compared to the league avg)

Accounting for inflation, the Yankees have increased total salary spending 38 percent from 2003 to 2010. Moving up 2 spots into the #2 position is the Boston Red Sox who see an opening Day payroll of $162,447,333, a 33.43 percent increase from 2009. The club from Beantown has increased salary 68 percent from 2003 when accounting for inflation. It should be noted that the difference between the Yankees at #1 and the Red Sox at #2 is $43,886,056, or more than the player payrolls of the 29th ranked Padres and 30th ranked Pirates. Rounding out the Top 5 are the Cubs ($146,609,000, up 8.75 percent from 2009, and up 82 percent from 2003 – inflation adj.), Phillies ($141,928,379, up 25.60 percent from 2009, and up 101 percent from 2003 – inflation adj), and Mets who drop 3 positions in ranking with a $134,422,942, down 10.01 percent from last season, but see a 15 percent increase in from the 2003 when accounting for inflation.

SELECT READ MORE TO SEE DETAILS COMPLETE DETAILS ON OPENING DAY PAYROLLS, ALONG WITH “Arg!”, “Rising Rays”, BEING “Right on ‘Target’”, AND OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST

Pirates salary data
Select the image to see details on the
Pirates Opening Day salary

At the other end of the spectrum, the Pittsburgh Pirates have the lowest payroll in baseball at $34,943,000, a 28.24 percent drop from last season when they had a $48,693,000 payroll. When accounting for inflation, the Pirates have actually lowered player payroll 45 percent since 2003. Their 2010 Opening Day payroll is the second lowest figure the club has had in our 8-year study to only the $32,227,929 in 2004. When adjusting the lowest salaries over the 8-year span, the 2010 Pirates figure ranks 10th lowest. The Buccos have had an average Opening Day payroll of $42,903,320 over the life of the study.

(Select the image provided to see the Pirates Opening Day payroll figures for 2003-10)

Rounding out the Bottom 5 for 2010 are the Padres with $37,799,300, a 28 percent decline from the $43,734,200 they had last year. The club continues to be plagued by the salary dump that occurred from the fallout of former owner John Moores divorce. When accounting for inflation, the 2010 salary figure is a 17 percent decline from the Padres $52,861,231 Opening Day payroll in 2003. The Padres are followed by the A’s ($51,654,900, down 17.1 percent from 2009, and down 12 when using the 2003 inflation adjusted figures), Rangers, who fall 5 ranking places from 2009 to 2010 with a $55,250,544 Opening Day salary, a decline of 18.96 percent from $68,178,798. The Rangers see a 55 percent decline from the inflation adjusted 2003 figure to this year. Finally, the Florida Marlins rank 26th overall, which is actually an accomplishment.  After the MLBPA threatened a grievance over how the club was spending revenue-sharing, the Fish have raised their Opening Day payroll to $57,034,719, a whopping 54.64 percent increase from last year’s 30th ranked $36,834,000. The percentage of increase from last year to this marks the biggest jump of the 30 clubs.

Other points of interest

  • Rays salary info
    Select the image to see details on the
    Rays Opening Day payroll
    The Tampa Bay Rays see the biggest increase in Opening Day payroll from the 2003 inflation adjusted number of $22,840,985 to $71,923,471, an increase of 215 percent. The club raised player payroll 13.6 percent from last year, alone. The club that was ranked 29th or 30th repeatedly in player payroll has broken out of the bottom third in the league and ranks 19 ahead of the Reds, Royals, Blue Jays, Nationals, Indians, D-Backs, Marlins, Rangers, A’s, Padres, and Pirates (select the image provided to see details).
  • The Cleveland Indians see the biggest ranking decline dropping 10 places from 14th last year to 24th for 2010. The Indians start the 2010 season with a $61,203,966 player payroll, a 24.98 percent decline from 2009’s $81,579,166. The nearly 25 percent decline is the second biggest drop from last year to this behind only the Pirates.
    Twins salary data
    Select the image to see details on the
    Twins Opening Day payroll
  • Call it the Target Field or Joe Mauer factor… what have you; the Minnesota Twins see the biggest increase in Opening Day payroll from last year to this, jumping 14 spots from 24th in 2009 to 10th this year. Hovering at just under $100 million ($97,559,166), the Twins see an increase of 43.4 percent from 2009’s $65,299,266 (select the image provided for details).
  • In the eight-year study using inflation adjusted figures from 2003, the Detroit Tigers join the Rays as the only other club to see player payroll increase more than 100 percent. Ranking 6th this year, the Tigers’ $122,864,928 Opening Day payroll is a 115 percent increase from the inflation adjusted $57,204,858 that the Tigers spent in 2003 (actual figure, $49,163,000).
  • The sum of the Top 9 clubs (Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Phillies, Mets, Tigers, White Sox, Angels, and Giants) at $1,020,135,971 is nearly as much as the total for the bottom 15 clubs in the league ($1,028,700,262)

2010 Opening Day Payroll (with 2009 Details)

Rank Team 2010 Pct + or - 2009 Rank (09)
1 N.Y. Yankees $206,333,389 2.42% $201,449,189 1
2 Boston $162,447,333 33.43% $121,745,999 4
3 Chicago Cubs $146,609,000 8.75% $134,809,000 3
4 Philadelphia $141,928,379 25.60% $113,004,046 7
5 New York Mets $134,422,942 -10.01% $149,373,987 2
6 Detroit $122,864,928 6.76% $115,085,145 5
7 Chicago White Sox $105,530,000 9.85% $96,068,500 12
8 Los Angeles Angels $104,963,866 -7.69% $113,709,000 6
9 San Francisco $98,641,333 19.40% $82,616,450 13
10 Minnesota $97,559,166 49.40% $65,299,266 24
11 Los Angeles Dodgers $95,358,016 -5.04% $100,414,592 9
12 St. Louis $93,540,751 20.53% $77,605,109 17
13 Houston $92,355,500 -10.33% $102,996,414 8
14 Seattle $86,510,000 -12.53% $98,904,166 10
15 Atlanta $84,423,666 -12.72% $96,726,166 11
16 Colorado $84,227,000 12.00% $75,201,000 18
17 Baltimore $81,612,500 21.63% $67,101,666 23
18 Milwaukee $81,108,278 1.15% $80,182,502 16
19 Tampa Bay $71,923,471 13.60% $63,313,034 25
20 Cincinnati $71,761,542 -2.44% $73,558,500 19
21 Kansas City $71,405,210 1.26% $70,519,333 21
22 Toronto $62,234,000 -22.73% $80,538,300 15
23 Washington $61,400,000 1.78% $60,328,000 27
24 Cleveland $61,203,966 -24.98% $81,579,166 14
25 Arizona $60,718,166 -17.41% $73,516,666 20
26 Florida $57,034,719 54.84% $36,834,000 30
27 Texas $55,250,544 -18.96% $68,178,798 22
28 Oakland $51,654,900 -17.10% $62,310,000 26
29 San Diego $37,799,300 -13.57% $43,734,200 29
30 Pittsburgh $34,943,000 -28.24% $48,693,000 28

Totals $2,717,766,875 2.35% $2,655,395,194

Source: USA Today

Deferred payments and incentive clauses are not included. Team payrolls do not include money paid or received in trades or for players who have been released.


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Maury BrownMaury 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 available for hire or freelance. 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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