Small-market clubs close gap in payroll

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NEW YORK — The rest of baseball is starting to catch up with the big spenders.

The Miami Marlins, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels all had hefty boosts in payroll during the off-season along with the Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals, according to a study of major league contracts by The Associated Press.

Some traditional high rollers had huge drops, including the New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox.

The New York Yankees, of course, remain the cash king and topped $200 million on Opening Day for the fifth consecutive year. And at $30 million, the Yanks’ Alex Rodriguez remains the richest of the richest, baseball’s highest-paid player for the 12th consecutive season.

The major league average salary rose 4.1 percent to $3.44 million, the steepest hike since 2008.

Lucrative deals came from unexpected places, with Albert Pujols getting $240 million from Angels owner Arte Moreno and Fielder $214 million from Tigers owner Mike Ilitch.

“Maybe they just have more saved up or something,” Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said.

Spreading the wealth this week, Cincinnati struck a deal with Joey Votto for $251.5 million over 12 years – the longest deal in big league history and the third richest. San Francisco gave Matt Cain $127.5 million over the next six seasons, the highest contract for a right-handed pitcher.

“I think it’s a healthy sign to the extent that the weaker clubs financially, or lower-revenue clubs, are starting to spend a little more,” Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. “It probably is a sign of additional competitiveness. Although, again, there’s not always a correlation between the payroll and team success.”

AVERAGE SALARY

NEW YORK — The average baseball salary on Opening Day, based on salary studies by the The Associated Press, and the percentage increase or decrease. Figures were obtained by The Associated Press from management and player sources and include salaries and pro-rated shares of signing bonuses.

YEAR AVERAGE PCT. INC.

2000 1,988,034 +15.6

2001 2,264,403 +13.9

2002 2,383,235 +5.2

2003 2,555,476 +7.2

2004 2,486,609 -2.7

2005 2,632,655 +5.9

2006 2,866,544 +8.9

2007 2,944,556 +2.7

2008 3,154,845 +7.1

2009 3,240,206 +2.7

2010 3,297,828 +1.8

2011 3,305,393 +0.2

2012 3,439,370 +4.1

Source: Associated Press


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