MLB Average Salaries Increase 11% Year over Year to $4.9 Million


Professional baseball players spent their offseason in a flurry of spending, with their average salary rocketing up 11.1%, setting a new record of $4.9 million for the sport. This marked the largest surge in salaries since 2001, largely due to the influx in revenue from new media deals, an expansion of the MLB postseason and higher ticket prices.

The New York Mets were at the heart of this boom as their payroll soared to its highest ever, standing at $355 million. This topped the combined salaries of the Mets’ two highest-paid players, starting-pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, both of whom earned $43.3 million in salary. The Oakland Athletics, on the other hand, had the lowest payroll at just $58 million. Among the beneficiaries of the spending spree were Aaron Judge, Manny Machado, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, and Jacob deGrom, who all got handsome paydays.

With nine-hundred and forty-three players in the Major Leagues this Opening Day, fifty-six percent of them earned over a million dollars. According to players such as Marcus Semien, part of the union’s executive subcommittee involved in collective bargaining, this increase was “a step in the right direction.” Zack Eflin praised the move, noting the disparity between minimum salaries and how much teams had been making in revenue.

The increased spending reflects the influence of larger market teams such as the Yankees and Dodgers, as seven of the eleven highest-paid players ply their trade in New York or Los Angeles. Most of the credit, however, should go to new Mets owner Steve Cohen, whose spending has escalated since taking over the team in 2019. With starts like Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer near the top of the money making charts, it adds further evidence of the wealth of the game.

It is important to note that the recent surge followed a decrease in average player salary from 2018-2021. The average fell from a record $4.45 million in 2017 to $4.2 million due to the COVID-19 pandemic, prior to the ninety-nine day lockout before players and owners agreed to a collective bargaining agreement. Following the agreement, there was an additional 6% jump in average salaries to $4.4 million in 2022 before 2020’s 11.1% surge.

The agreement is also responsible for raising the minimum salary of players to $720,000 and reducing the combined salaries of the fifty highest paid players to twenty-nine per cent of the total. The median salary has also steadily increased, rising by three-hundred thousand to $1.5 million.

Overall, the 2021 MLB season Open Day served as evidence of the rising wealth of the sport, as hundreds of highly-paid players start the season on packed rosters. It also serves as a reminder of the importance of collective bargaining to ensure that players gain their fair share of the game’s revenues whilst keeping the sport in a financially healthy state.