Major League Baseball salaries plummeted to their lowest level since 1996 this year during a coronavirus pandemic that forced a shorter season and limited paychecks for players, according to a report Monday.
As of opening day, the average salary for an MLB player was $1,295,942, according to an analysis conducted by the Associated Press. Players will earn less than they have in any season since 1996, when the average salary on opening day was $1,176,967.
Under the structure imposed for MLB’s coronavirus-shortened 60-game season, players will earn a prorated 37 percent of the salary they would have earned during a full season. Total compensation for the all players is expected to be $1.5 billion.
This year’s average pay marked a major decline compared to last season, when players earned an average of $4,375,486. If MLB played its full season, average pay would have risen slightly to $4.52 million.
The decline was partially attributable to an expansion of rosters during the pandemic. MLB teams had a cumulative 1,007 active players on opening day, up from 878 last season.
The highest-paid player is baseball is Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer, who will earn $17.8 million due in large part to his signing bonus, which wasn’t subject to the salary proration.
MLB began play on July 23, months after it was forced to suspend spring training and delay its scheduled start because of the pandemic.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.