Alex Rodriguez makes more this year than his hometown Florida Marlins.
Boosted by his new deal with the New York Yankees, A-Rod tops the major league baseball salary list at $28 million, according to a study of contract terms by The Associated Press. The 33 players on the Marlins’ opening-day roster and disabled list total $21.8 million.
“The Marlins? It’s amazing,” Rodriguez said. “And they still seem to find a way to be very competitive. They have a great pool of talent; they made some unbelievable trades, so they have great personnel people. To win two championships in 11 years, that’s really admirable, and I’m very proud of that organization, being from Miami.”
For the first time in baseball history, the average salary topped the $3 million mark. The 855 players on opening-day rosters and the DL averaged $3.15 million, up 7.1 percent from last year’s starting average of $2.94 million.
Florida’s highest earner doesn’t even make the average. Pitcher Kevin Gregg tops the Marlins at $2.5 million.
“My best friend came into town, and he mentioned something about Johan Santana making $15 million more than our five starters combined,” Marlins catcher Matt Treanor said. “It’s something to laugh at, but at the same time, it is what it is. Those guys put on the uniform like us. When it comes time to start the game, it doesn’t matter how much money the Yankees or whoever make.”
Treanor’s friend was exaggerating a bit—Santana makes $12 million more than Florida’s rotation. Still, the Marlins’ payroll was less than half that of the No. 29 team, Tampa Bay ($43.8 million).
“They’ve won a championship more recently than we have as an organization. So there’s many different ways to skin a cat,” said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, whose team lost to Florida in the 2003 World Series. “Alex earned that contract in the negotiation. Right now, the Marlins are in a different place. But they’ve got a stadium coming on board and they’re going in the right direction, and I think they’ve already proven they know how to build something.”
The Yankees, not surprisingly, topped the payroll list at $209.1 million, and A-Rod was No. 1 in the majors for the eighth straight year. New York first baseman Jason Giambi was second at $23.4 million, followed by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter ($21.6 million) and Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez ($18.9 million).
Boosted by the acquisition of Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, Detroit shot up to second in the major leagues at $138.7 million. The Tigers’ payroll at the end of last season was 12th at $98.5 million.
“This isn’t one of those teams, ‘I can’t believe we didn’t pick up this player, or this guy.’ We’ve got no excuses,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “It’s all about us, because the main man has done everything and more that you could ask.”
The New York Mets were third at $138.3 million, up from $121 million at the end of 2007, and the World Series champion Boston Red Sox were fourth at $133.4 million.
Bunched together after that were the Chicago White Sox ($121.2 million), Los Angeles Angels ($119.2 million), Chicago Cubs ($118.6 million), Los Angeles Dodgers ($118.5 million) and Seattle Mariners ($118 million).
Although the average increased, the median salary—the point at which an equal amount of players fall above and below—remained at a record $1 million for the third straight opening day.
There were a record 434 making $1 million or more, breaking the record set in 2001 and matched last year. And there was a big boost at the top with 85 players reaching $10 million—up from 66 last year.
Payroll figures don’t include cash transactions between clubs. Figures included salaries and prorated shares of signing bonuses and other guaranteed income, and for some players, deferred money was discounted to present-day value.
The average salary usually declines during the season as veterans get released and are replaced by young players. The final 2007 average, as calculated by the players’ association, was $2.82 million.