Opening day MLB payrolls to exceed $3B for first time; Dodgers, Jays, Nats see biggest rise

Jeff Passan

Baseball's opening-day payrolls will exceed $3 billion for the first time this season, jumping more than 7 percent from last season and redistributing the windfall from landmark local television deals across the sport, according to a Yahoo! Sports analysis.

Using Baseball Prospectus' contract database, arbitration projections from MLB Trade Rumors and expected salaries for the remaining free agents likely to garner major-league contracts, Y! Sports estimates opening-day payrolls of teams' 25-man rosters will total about $3.15 billion, a 7.1-percent increase from last year's opening-day figure of $2.94 billion.

More than half of the increase comes from the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose projected $213 million payroll is the highest in the major leagues – and a 123.9-percent increase over their $95.1 million from opening day in 2012. The Dodgers signed the richest free-agent deal of the offseason, giving starter Zack Greinke a six-year, $147 million deal.

The Miami Marlins, on the other hand, have shed nearly three times as much as any other team, going from a $118 million opening-day payroll last season to an estimated $45 million this year, a 61.9 percent decrease.

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Despite promises to get beneath the luxury tax threshold of $189 million before the 2014 season, the New York Yankees are projected to spend more at the start of this year than last. Their estimated $210 million payroll is more than $12 million ahead of 2012's and second to the Dodgers'. The two are in their own payroll stratosphere, far ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies ($158 million), Los Angeles Angels ($152 million) and Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers ($150 million).

The Red Sox's payroll does not include their $13 million-a-year contract with Mike Napoli, which has been on hold because of questions about his hip. Along with Napoli, outfielder Michael Bourn, starters Kyle Lohse, Shaun Marcum, Francisco Liriano and Joe Saunders, relievers Rafael Soriano and Brian Wilson, and a handful of other players are expected to fetch major-league deals that would add about $80 million this season to the $3.072 billion currently estimated.

Fourteen teams will open the season with nine-figure payrolls, a stark increase from the $100 million teams last year (nine) and two more than the record set in 2011. If Baltimore signs one of the remaining marquee free agents, it could vault into the $100 million territory and make it the median for the sport.

Barring the Marlins dumping starter Ricky Nolasco, the rebuilding Houston Astros will carry the lowest payroll in the major leagues this year. While a source said the team anticipates spending around $32 million, it currently has just $26 million guaranteed – the lowest since the Marlins entered 2008 with a $21.8 million team.

[More MLB Springboards: No. 30 Astros | No. 29 Marlins | No. 28 Mets | No. 27 Rockies | No. 26 Twins | No. 25 Pirates | No. 24 Indians | No. 23 Mariners]

Bringing up the bottom with Houston and Miami are Pittsburgh ($55 million, not including its on-hold deal with Liriano), and Oakland and Tampa Bay ($60 million). Beyond the Marlins and Astros, the Milwaukee Brewers (26.3 percent decrease), Minnesota Twins (15 percent), and Seattle Mariners and Red Sox (13.4 percent) have the biggest cut in percentage spent.

The Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays (52.3 percent), Washington Nationals (38.9 percent), Cincinnati Reds (30.2 percent) and Kansas City Royals (28 percent) round out the five biggest payroll hikes thus far this offseason.

Payrolls will increase significantly throughout the season because of players hitting the disabled lists as well as year-end bonuses. MLB also calculates year-end payrolls using players on the 40-man roster. Minor-league players make $32,500 for their first year on the 40-man roster, $79,900 for the second season and $97,500 for the third. Teams will spend between $900,000 and $1.3 million on salaries for rostered minor leaguers.

Last season, the final payrolls totaled $3.148 billion, nearly $208 million more than opening day. By the end of 2013, that figure is expected to be closer to $3.35 billion.

A closer look at the payrolls:

Team '13 payroll estimate '12 opening day payroll
% change
Arizona Diamondbacks $89,000,000 $74,284,833 19.81
Atlanta Braves $85,000,000 $83,309,942 2.03
Baltimore Orioles $92,000,000 $81,428,999 12.98
Boston Red Sox $150,000,000 $173,186,617 -13.39
Chicago Cubs $103,000,000 $88,197,033 16.78
Chicago White Sox $117,000,000 $96,919,500 20.72
Cincinnati Reds $107,000,000 $82,203,616 30.16
Cleveland Indians $71,000,000 $78,430,300 -9.47
Colorado Rockies $73,000,000 $78,069,571 -6.49
Detroit Tigers $150,000,000 $132,300,000 13.38
Houston Astros $32,000,000 $60,651,000 -47.24
Kansas City Royals $78,000,000 $60,916,225 28.04
Los Angeles Angels $152,000,000 $154,485,166 -1.61
Los Angeles Dodgers $213,000,000 $95,143,575 123.87
Miami Marlins $45,000,000 $118,078,000 -61.89
Milwaukee Brewers $72,000,000 $97,653,944 -26.27
Minnesota Twins $80,000,000 $94,085,000 -14.97
New York Mets $84,000,000 $93,353,983 -10.02
New York Yankees $210,000,000 $197,962,289 6.08
Oakland A’s $60,000,000 $55,372,500 8.36
Philadelphia Phillies $158,000,000 $174,538,938 -9.48
Pittsburgh Pirates $55,000,000 $63,431,999 -13.29
San Diego Padres $65,000,000 $55,244,700 17.66
San Francisco Giants $137,000,000 $117,620,683 16.48
Seattle Mariners $71,000,000 $81,978,100 -13.39
St. Louis Cardinals $115,000,000 $110,300,862 4.26
Tampa Bay Rays $60,000,000 $64,173,500 -6.50
Texas Rangers $120,000,000 $120,510,974 -0.42
Toronto Blue Jays $115,000,000 $75,489,200 52.34
Washington Nationals $113,000,000 $81,336,143 38.93
Totals: $3,072,000,000 $2,940,657,192

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