NEW YORK – Major League Baseball’s average salary rose 14.8% to a record $4.22 million last year after the end of the lockout, boosted by big deals for Max Scherzer, Francisco Lindor, Marcus Semien and Corey Seager.
The rate of increase was the highest since a 17.7% increase in 2000 to $1.61 million, according to final calculations by the players’ association.
The average had dropped in each of the previous four seasons before 2022, sparking player anger that was expressed by the union during a 99-day lockout that ended last March.
Last year’s average salary was calculated by the union at $4,222,193, up from $3,679,335 in 2021. MLB, which uses a slightly different method, calculated the average at $4,117,472, up 15% from $3,579,341 in 2021.
Payrolls, a more complete reflection on spending, rose 12.6% to $4.56 billion from $4.05 billion.
Salaries have escalated higher this past offseason. The Mets have boosted their payroll to a projected $370 million, well past the previous record of $297.9 million of the 2015 Los Angeles Dodgers.
Some owners are arguing for significant change to lessen payroll disparity when the current labor contract expires after the 2026 season, and MLB established another committee to examine economics.
“History would suggest that an economic committee … is really hyper focused on a salary cap – or getting to a salary cap when we next sit down to negotiate,” union head Tony Clark said Saturday.
“We’re never going to agree to a cap. Let me start there. We don’t have a cap, we’re not going to agree to a cap,” Clark added. “A salary cap is the ultimate restriction on player value and player salary. We believe in a market system. The market system has served our players, our teams and our game very well.”
Clark suggested some teams maintain low payrolls as strategy rather than because of lack of revenue.
“The product on the field does well, fans come to the ballpark. Fans come to the ballpark, local revenue increase in all facets. That model has served our industry remarkably well,” he said. “Can or won’t is a valid question to ask when teams in an industry that has grown are still in a world where their payrolls are half of what they may have been 10 or 15 years ago.”
Manfred has said MLB had $10.8 billion in revenue last year. Clark praised the active free-agent market.
“What is interesting is the comments finding into the way into the headlines against the backdrop of a remarkably exciting offseason, where teams competing and engaging in the free-agent market created a level of excitement that I would think is a positive,” Clark said.
Figures are based on the 1,043 players on active rosters and injured lists as of Aug. 31, the last day before active rosters expanded from 26 to 28. The union’s average includes prorated shares of option buyouts, which MLB does not.
Neither side included the $50 million bonus pool for pre-arbitration-eligible players.