MLB payrolls continue to rise

Michael Bourn of the Cleveland Indians might have the highest salary on the squad, but the team has one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.
Jason Miller/Getty Images

By Michael Bode

Major League Baseball continues to be the one American professional sport without a cap on payroll. As such, the spending habits of teams oftentimes inspires debate. Here at WFNY in 2015, we have already featured some ways to potentially tweak the MLB CBA in order to balance the inequities.

Thursday, Jayson Stark of ESPN wrote an article describing the escalating payrolls around MLB in general. He wrote about the sport being financially healthy:

The sport has changed. The cash registers are ringing. The Yankees have missed the playoffs two years in a row. The Pirates, Royals, Indians and Rays haven’t. And just about everyone has $100 million (or more) to spend.

In contrast, the Opening Day payrolls were vastly different just four years ago. In 2011, there were eighteen teams below the $100 million threshold, ten below $75 million, and five teams below $50 million. In 2015, only six teams are below $100 million in payroll, with just two below $75 million.

Stark then goes on to state the effect it has had on the free agent market:

So many teams lock up their younger players with long-term deals that the free-agent market is skewing older and more challenging.

The Cleveland Indians are just one example of a team locking up their good, young players before they hit free agency as they have with Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Carlos Santana, and Jason Kipnis. As a result, the Indians contention window might stay open longer than in the past, and the team may be able to afford thehigher payrolls in future seasons that these extensions have created.

The crux of the rising revenues and payrolls around MLB is that it puts more of the onus of winning on the front office to make good baseball decisions with player acquisition and movement. As Stark says:

Now that baseball has reached a point where nearly every team has enough money to spend, winning is actually determined mostly by baseball decisions, not dollar signs.

The Indians have been able to build a competitive team in spite of financial constraints. It appears that the current MLB system may allow them to keep that competitive team longer than in the past due to an increased revenue flow. If so, then fans may have to come up with a new topic to cycle in with the standard yearly baseball debates.


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