Because of the way contracts are valued, because of incentives and deferred payments, because of various player benefits and 40-man roster pay, because of in-season trades, and because of general secrecy, you will often see different totals for every team’s payroll at different times throughout the year. Indeed, there’s a difference between the amount a team actually pays out in a given year and the way MLB calculates a team’s payroll for purposes of the luxury tax.
All those caveats aside, one of the more common “payroll” totals you’ll see for teams comes at the beginning of the season, as calculated by the Associated Press. You can see the figures for Opening Day here, and the Cubs come in 13th in baseball, at $119 million.
Heading into the offseason, that’s definitely the upper limit of what most were expecting for the Cubs (roughly $100 million plus $20 million in rolled over funds from the previous year), which is encouraging. The hope now, of course, is that revenues were strong in 2014 and will be even stronger in 2015, allowing the Cubs to build just a little bit on that $119 million figure. This year’s figure is a marked increase over the $90 to $100 million range of the last couple years.
The Cardinals, at $121 million, are tops in the Central, two spots ahead of the Cubs at number 11. The Yankees are at their usual absurd level, nearly $220 million. But the Dodgers have gone and lapped the field, with a payroll that now exceeds $272 million, according to the AP.