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Average MLB salary down for first time since 2004

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The average major league salary dropped this year for the first time since 2004 and for only the fourth time since record-keeping started 50 years ago, according to the players’ association.

The union said Friday its final average was $4,095,686, down $1,436 from $4,097,122 last year.

Since the union started keeping track in 1967, the only previous declines had been by $66 in 1987, when owners were found to have conspired to hold down salaries among free agents; a 4 percent decline in 1995 following a 7+ -month strike that wiped out the World Series for the first time since 1904; and by 2.5 percent in 2004.

This year’s survey was based on the 968 players on major league rosters and disabled lists on Aug. 31, the last day before the active player limit expanded from 25 to 40.

After years of strong growth, salaries have stagnated over the last three years. This year’s average is up just 3.6 percent from $3,952,252 in 2015.

An unusually slow free-agent market last offseason contributed to this year’s drop. Among the 166 players who exercised the right to become free agents after the World Series, exactly half of the 140 agreements reached were completed after the start of spring training workouts Feb. 14. Many of those deals involving veterans were for depressed prices.

Two years ago, the union calculated the average at $3,966,020, a 0.35 percent rise from the previous year’s $3,952,252 that was the lowest rate of increase since a 2.5 percent drop in 2004. Major League Baseball calculated that year’s average at $3,825,967, down from $3,835,498 in 2015.

The union includes a pro-rated share of option buyouts that may be earned if the option is declined, while MLB does not take those into account in its average.

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Cubs have considered trading Ben Zobrist

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The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma reports that the Cubs have considered trading super-utilityman Ben Zobrist in order to free up payroll space, which would allow the club to address other areas of the roster.

Zobrist, 37, is entering the final year of his contract and will earn $12 million in 2019. According to Cot’s Contracts, the Cubs project to have an Opening Day payroll of about $204.5 million, just a hair below the luxury tax threshold of $206 million. The Cubs have notably been absent from the free agent marketplace, particularly involving Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, due to luxury tax concerns.

Last season, Zobrist hit .305/.378/.440 with nine home runs, 58 RBI, and 67 runs scored in 520 plate appearances. He played all over the field, logging 100-plus innings in both outfield corners and second base while also spending a handful of games at first base. With Addison Russell serving a 40-game suspension to open the 2019 season, Javier Báez will handle shortstop and Zobrist figures to be the starting second baseman.