Major League Baseball’s average player salary is set to decline for the second straight year on opening day, even after several of the league’s most recognizable names signed record-breaking contracts during the offseason, according to a report on Tuesday.
As of Monday, the 872 players on MLB rosters or injured lists are set to earn an average salary of $4.36 million, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. That figure is down from an average salary of $4.41 million on opening day in 2018 and $4.45 million in 2017.
The league’s average salary could shift slightly with last-minute roster moves before opening day on Thursday. However, another drop would mark the first time on record that average salaries have dropped for two consecutive seasons.
While average pay is on the decline, this offseason showed that MLB teams are still willing to shell out massive contracts to the league’s top stars. The Los Angeles Angels signed star outfielder Mike Trout to a 12-year, $430 million contract earlier this month that ranks as the richest deal in professional sports history.
Trout’s contract shattered an MLB record established just weeks earlier by Bryce Harper, who signed a $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. Slugging third baseman Manny Machado received a $300 million deal from the San Diego Padres, while Nolan Arenado re-signed with the Colorado Rockies on a $265 million extension.
Still, several top free agents, including ace starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel and closer Craig Kimbrel remain unsigned. MLB players union officials have expressed growing concern about a slowdown in how much money teams are willing to spend in free agency to acquire talented veterans.
“As players report to spring training and see respected veterans and valued teammates on the sidelines, they are rightfully frustrated by a two-year attack on free agency,” MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark said in a statement in February. “Players commit to compete every pitch of every at-bat, and every inning of every game. Yet we’re operating in an environment in which an increasing number of clubs appear to be making little effort to improve their rosters, compete for a championship or justify the price of a ticket.”
Player compensation is expected to be a major point of discussion as league and union officials work to reach a new labor agreement when the current deal expires in 2021.