MLB payroll drops 4%, back to 2015 level

NEW YORK –Major League Baseball’s payroll fell 4% in 2021 from the league’s last full season, and the $4.05 billion total was the lowest full-year since 2015.

Falling payrolls sparked the social unrest that led to the sport’s first work stoppage in more than a quarter century this month, when the collective bargaining agreement expired and owners locked players out -out on December 2.

Payrolls are down 4.6% from their all-time high of just under $4.25 billion in 2017, the CBA’s first year that just expired, according to information sent to clubs by the commissioner’s office and obtained by The Associated Press on Monday. Spending on big league players hasn’t been this low since a total of $3.9 billion in 2015.

The Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with a $262 million payroll in 2021, the second-highest in major league history behind the franchise’s mark of $291 million in 2015.

The Dodgers were hit with a $32.65 million luxury tax bill on Monday as the sport resumed penalizing big spenders after a season-long suspension of the tax due to the pandemic. San Diego was the only other club to pay a levy, charged $1.29 million after failing to make the playoffs with a roster led by Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Yu Darvish, Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer.

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Five teams finished within $4 million of the $210 million payroll threshold calculated for luxury tax purposes: Philadelphia ($209.4 million), Yankees ($208.4 million dollars), the Mets ($207.7 million), Boston ($207.6 million) and Houston ($206.6 million). ).

Gross payroll and luxury tax payroll are measured differently. Payroll includes salaries, pro rata shares of signing bonuses and other guaranteed income, as well as earned bonuses. In some cases, the portions of wages that are deferred are discounted to their present value.

The luxury tax payroll is a little more forward-looking as it is calculated from the average annual contract values ​​for players with 40 players. It also includes about $15.5 million per team for benefits.

Payrolls rose steadily from $3 billion in 2011 to $4.07 billion in 2016, then peaked in 2017 before declining slightly to $4.2 billion each in 2018 and 2019. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting shortened season, salaries were paid at a 60/162 rate in 2020, bringing payroll down to $1.75 billion.

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Players have proposed that the luxury tax threshold be raised to $245 million next year to spur spending. The owners offered $214 million, a sinkhole that led to tense negotiations followed by a management lockout that began when the five-year labor contract expired on December 1. The work stoppage is baseball’s first since a seven-and-a-half-month strike in 1994-95.

Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer was the highest-paid player at $38 million. He was placed on administrative leave on July 2 under MLB’s domestic violence policy following an assault allegation, which he denied. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout was second with $37 million, followed by Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole with $36 million.

The Dodgers paid taxes every season from 2013 to 2017, and their total bill has reached $182 million since the luxury tax began in 2003. That’s second only to the New York Yankees’ $348 million bill. York.

The Yankees had the second-highest payroll in baseball in 2021 — not adjusted for luxury tax purposes — at nearly $204 million, their lowest in a full season since 2018. The Mets were third with a team record $199 million in their first season under owner Steven Cohen, up from $146 million in 2019 and surpassing their previous record of $152 million in 2018.

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The Mets are likely heading to the top after committing $254.5 million this offseason to four free agents: pitcher Max Scherzer, center fielder Starling Marte, outfielder Mark Canha and All-Star infielder Eduardo Escobar .

Philadelphia was fourth with $192 million, followed by AL champ Houston with nearly $190 million and Boston with $187 million, down from a 2019 high of $228 million and the lowest for the Red Sox in a full year since 2015.

San Diego finished seventh with a team-high $184 million, down from 23rd at $104 million in 2019. Four of the eight top spenders missed the playoffs. Tampa Bay, 26th, was the postseason team with the lowest payroll.

World Series champion Atlanta finished 14th with $148 million.

The Chicago Cubs went from third at $220 million in 2019 to 13th at $152 million, and Washington went from fourth at $205 million in 2019 to 10th at $168 million.

Pittsburgh was last at $50 million, the lowest total of any team in a full season since Houston’s $29 million in 2013. Cleveland was at $53 million, Baltimore at $59 million, Miami at $61 million and Tampa Bay at $77 million.

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Ten teams had payrolls under $100 million, the most in a full season since there were 13 in 2014.

The Dodgers had the highest luxury tax payroll at $285.6 million, second only to their record high of $297.9 million in 2015. After losing to the Braves in the NL Championship Series, Los Angeles has received a tax bill of $32,649,965, their third highest behind a bill of $43.6 million in 2015 and $36.2 million in 2017.

San Diego — which signed Tatis to a 14-year, $340 million deal in February but paid him a $1 million salary in 2021 — finished second with $216.5 million after finishing third in the NL West at 79-83. The Padres must pay a tax of $1,293,478.

Checks for the Competitive Balance Tax, as it is officially called, go to the commissioner’s office and are due no later than January 21. The first $13 million in taxes is used to fund player benefits and 50% of the rest will be used to fund players’ individual retirement accounts. The other 50% of the remainder will be given to teams that do not exceed the tax threshold: $373,990 per club.

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Luxury tax payrolls totaled $4.52 billion, up from $4.71 billion in 2019, $4.55 billion in 2018 and $4.66 billion in 2017, just above the 4 .51 billion in 2016.


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Neal T. Doss