A lot of fuss has been made over various MLB team payrolls this winter, because they’ve mattered more than usual. With a new CBA minted last offseason, this was the first offseason after the new Luxury Tax-related consequences went into effect, and, as we all know (together with a number of other factors), threw a wrench in the free agent market.
But when we’ve discussed those payroll numbers this winter, we’ve almost always been focusing on the “luxury tax payroll,” which is calculated much differently than the on-field, actually-paid-out payroll for Opening Day. The most notable difference, though there are others, is that the luxury tax payroll is calculated based on the average annual value of a player’s contract, where as the more familiar Opening Day payroll is just a calculation of what the roster will cost this season.
So because the former has gotten plenty of attention over the past few months, I’d say it’s time to take a look at the latter, where the Chicago Cubs are reportedly set to have the third highest payroll when games open up this Thursday (AP News):
- Red Sox: $223 Million
- Giants: $203 Million
- Cubs: $183 Million
- Dodgers: $180 Million
- Nationals $180 Million
- Angels: $170 Million
- Yankees: $167 Million
Note (Per AP): “Figures are based on rosters as of Monday afternoon, three days before opening-day rosters are set. They were obtained by the AP from management and player sources and include salaries and pro-rated shares of signing bonuses for players on the 25-man active roster and disabled lists. Termination pay for released players and buyouts for unexercised 2018 options are included, as are cash transactions in trades.”
As you can see, the Chicago Cubs are set to open up with a $183 million payroll this season, which is a clear step down from the top two spenders, but still among the most in MLB. For reference, the Cubs opened up with a $176.8M payroll last season, according to Forbes.
With a huge free agent class and many more big raises via arbitration looming, the Cubs’ payroll is probably going to balloon further over the next several seasons. Fortunately, the league is making more money than ever and the Cubs are about to ink a new TV deal. But still, this about as high as we’ve ever seen and there’s clearly more spending to come.
Elsewhere, among the most notable points addressed by AP, this is the first time in four years the Dodgers do not have the highest Opening Day payroll (though, remember, they are still among the highest for luxury tax purposes). And as for the Yankees, this is the lowest Opening Day payroll they’ve maintained since 2003 and the lowest ranking since 1992(!). With those two facts alone, for both the Dodgers and Yankees, it’s hard to argue that something wasn’t very different this offseason.
For more interesting payroll bits around the league, make sure to check out the AP article.