After Years of Growth, MLB Salaries Stall
Following years of steady growth since 2003, MLB player salaries appear to have stalled. According to Statista, the average MLB player salary has not seen a significant increase since 2016.
The five yearlong plateau in salaries could be attributed in part to the increase in expensive deals for specific high value players. New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole for example signed a $324 million contract with the Yankees during last year’s off-season. Higher pay for individual players can adversely affect the funds available for other players. Even though Cole’s salary did drop from $36 million to $13 million due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the star pitcher is still expected to earn more than the entire Pittsburgh Pirates roster.
This increasing emphasis on expensive free agent contracts was a major factor for the 2016 hike in salary averages. An increase in revenue across the MLB at the time allowed for teams from inland states like the Arizona Diamondbacks to be more competitive with their east and west coast counterparts in bidding for high value player contracts. This naturally leads to more lucrative deals for players, and since there is no salary cap these contracts will most likely continue to rise in value.
According to the Associated Press, 44 of the 1,026 total MLB players in 2020 made at least $20 million in. The number of players who made between $5 million and $10 million fell from 120 to 102.
In 2003 the only two MLB players with a salary over $20 million were Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, according to USA Today.
The minimum MLB salary for the upcoming season will rise to $570,500, which is a $7,000 increase from last season’s $563,500. Instead of receiving their salary yearly, MLB players earn their salary during the regular season. This does not include the post season or Spring training, although players still receive a small stipend for the latter.