It's probably not news to many that team payrolls in Major League Baseball have been on a steady growth curve ever since free agency became an integral part of the National Pastime. According to a study conducted by USA Today, a record four MLB teams are projected to begin the season with team payrolls larger than $150 million, and with half of all Big League teams exceeding $90 million in annual salaries.
Based on the information obtained by USA Today and reported by baseball writer Bob Nightengale, 11 teams are expected to pay out more than $100 in player contracts this season, headed once again by the New York Yankees, whose payroll for 2012 is projected to be around $195 million. The Yankees' salary projections actually dropped from last season, when it was $202 million.
In addition to the Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, the Los Angeles Angels, who added free agentsAlbert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to their roster in the offseason at a price of $317.5 million, will crack the $150 million-plus club this season.
That represents a sharp contrast to what the salary landscape in Major League Baseball looked like a little over a decade ago. In 1999, for example, the Yankees had an annual payroll of $88 million to lead the majors. That year, 21 teams had team player contracts totaling less than $60 million, including the Kansas City Royals. The Royals' team payroll for 1999 was $16.5 million, which ranked 27th, even then, among the 30 major-league teams.
This season, only the Oakland A's and San Diego Padres are projected to have payrolls less than $60 million, according to the USA Today report. Our research, however, reveals that the Royals also fall in this category, with a projected payroll of $46 million for the 2012 season, up 20 percent from a year ago.
"The teams that spend the money usually are the ones that are there at the end," said Los Angeles Angels' starting pitcher Dan Harren.
Added Milwaukee Brewers' leftfielder and 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun: The more teams that have high payrolls is better for the players, better for the fans, better for competitive balance, better for parity."