MLB Season Overview: Money predominates out of season

Money doesn’t buy championships, but it certainly helps.

Eight of the last 12 World Series winners had a payroll among the top 10 in Major League Baseball in the season they won. Exceptions: 2011 Louis Cardinals, 2015. Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros infected in 2017 and Atlanta Braves in 2021. Of the winners, Royals is the only one considered a small market club.

So when the 2022 MLB campaign starts on Thursday – the 99-day lockout ended on time to preserve the 162-game season – expectations will be highest for teams at the very top of the payroll. They’re a mix of common suspects (Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and Yankees) and newcomers (Mets) – all from big markets. These are teams that have been at the center of a dispute in many ways that ended almost three decades of working peace in sports.

The revival of the once thrifty Mets has added new momentum to the baseball hierarchy in New York and across the MLB. clubs got a nickname after him. Meanwhile, the owner of the ever-opposing Yankees, Hal Steinbrenner, shuddered at the idea of ​​having to keep up with Cohen.

“I can’t control what resources other owners or other teams have and what they will do with those resources,” Steinbrenner said last month. “Every year I commit to the same commitment as my family, and that is to do everything we can to make a team of champion caliber and try to win the World Series.”

But the Yankees haven’t won a World Series, nor have they even appeared in one, since 2009. The Mets won their last title in 1986, but their last time was in 2015. The Dodgers appeared in three of the last five, winning in 2020.

Those three clubs, which are all expected to pay luxury taxes this season, topped the MLB charts on the payroll before opening day. According to FanGraphs’ payroll calculations for luxury taxes, the Dodgers ($ 293 million) are in the lead, followed by the Mets ($ 287 million) and the Yankees ($ 262 million).

“It’s great for New York fans to have two competing baseball teams,” Steinbrenner said.

Steinbrenner was one of seven owners on the MLB workers ‘committee who negotiated a new collective agreement with the players’ union. For months, the parties have been arguing over the economic basis of the sport. A significant reason for the tension: MLB is the only one of the leading men’s professional sports leagues in North America without a strict salary limit. In the NFL and NBA, revenue is shared between team owners and players at a fixed rate.

But in MLB, where player salaries are public but owner income is not, teams can spend as much as they want. They can also spend as much as they want – as long as they are willing to pay tax penalties for a competitive balance, which some teams see as a soft cap and others as a hard one. The union successfully negotiated the biggest jump in the luxury tax threshold from one employment contract to another, with the first threshold from $ 210 million in 2021 to $ 230 million in 2022. However, to achieve that, players agreed to a new, fourth a $ 60 million threshold across the base.

That’s not a problem for Cohen.

“Listen, $ 290 million in total is a lot of money to spend, and I’m fine with that,” he said last month. “I don’t feel like it’s so limited that I can’t live with it.”

Even before the pandemic affected sports income, players complained about how teams behaved. Despite record contracts in recent years, total spending has fallen.

In 2021, $ 4.05 billion spent on payroll was the lowest in a fully-fledged year since 2015, according to Associated Press estimates. Only two teams – San Diego Padres and Dodgers – paid the luxury tax. Nine teams spent $ 92 million or less on salaries. The average MLB salary was $ 1.15 million, down from a record high of $ 1.65 million in 2015. And the average career length was about four years, with wage arbitration providing significant increases, mostly only after the player collects three years of service time.

However, those numbers are expected to rise in the current agreement as the parties agree to raise the minimum league rate earned by most players from $ 570,500 in 2021 to $ 700,000 in 2022. There will also be a $ 50 million pool bonus for the top young players who do not yet qualify for arbitration. This off-season, the owners spent more than 3 billion dollars on the salaries of new players, breaking the previous winter record, which was set in 2016.

“The MLBPA has historically wanted a market-based system,” said Commissioner Rob Manfred, referring to the players’ union, the night the new deal was signed last month. “During the multiple negotiations, that was their primary goal. Markets produce market results. And I think the changes that have been made in this agreement have dramatically moved in their direction on topics like the CBT threshold. ”

During labor negotiations, the owners – who ran $ 11 billion a year before the pandemic – discussed ways to reduce peak spending and improve the distribution of talent or money among clubs. The players, a more diverse group whose members are not all millionaires, wanted a freer market, improved competition among clubs (and thus higher spending) and the economics of climbing led by top clubs.

“The teams that spend the most on the market mean that the system works well. This has not been the case here for a long time, ”said short-lived Metsa player Francisco Lindor, a member of the highest union committee, in Spanish.

He went on to point out that the Bronx team spent less in certain years to reset its luxury tax penalty status: “The Yankees have also stopped spending for a limited time. This means that the system did not work the way it was supposed to. We hope that with this new CBA, new teams will be spent, especially those in big markets. ”

New teams opened their checkbooks this winter. After keeping their payroll relatively low in recent years, Texas Rangers have taken on more than half a billion dollars in liabilities. They have a 10-year, $ 325 million contract for short-lived Corey Seager and a seven-year, $ 175 million contract for another baseman player, Marcus Semien. The Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies have joined the Dodgers and Mets in guaranteeing over $ 200 million in new contracts this winter.

“It’s important for the industry as a whole – and I’ve said that before, so it’s nothing new – no fans should come to spring training thinking their team has no chance of winning a division, no chance of making the playoffs,” Steinbrenner said. is. “It can only be bad for the industry as a whole. So I have supported a competitive balance and measures to try to resolve this even in this agreement. ”

But some clubs don’t seem ready to compete for the playoffs, which have expanded to 12 teams out of 10. Some – even those in the big markets (Oakland Athletics) or those sharing revenue from others (Pittsburgh Pirates) – are recovering and loss of player and salary. The growing gap between the teams with the lowest and highest spending has worried people like Lindor.

Example: Lindor’s teammate Max Scherzer, who will earn $ 43.3 million this season after signing with the Mets, is expected to earn more than the entire estimated payroll on the opening day of the following teams, according to Coto’s baseball contracts: Baltimore Orioles, Athletics and pirates. The Cleveland Guardians are not far ahead of Scherzer, with a projected payroll of $ 52 million. Lindor singled them all out and compared them to the Mets payroll.

“That’s a $ 200 million difference, and you haven’t seen that before,” said Lindor, who was replaced by the Mets before Cleveland last season and then signed a 10-year $ 341 million extension. He added: “When teams win, they make money. They say they don’t make good money, but they make good money. The industry continues to grow. ”

At one point in the labor negotiations, MLB offered a firm lower salary of $ 100 million – which would be the first for the sport – in addition to a lower $ 180 million luxury tax threshold, which included higher transition rates. Some players were open to the idea of ​​setting a minimum for team payrolls, but they were embarrassed by the accompanying, more difficult restriction.

Despite the draft lottery, which was designed to prevent teams from losing intentionally in hopes of winning No. 1, Michael LeRoy, a professor and sports workforce expert at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said baseball “is still a sport who will suffer from acute inequality in spending on quality players. ” He pointed to smaller market teams in the NFL that compete in the playoffs.

“Teams that want to shoot will continue to shoot,” he continued. “And that will affect the overall economy of sports. I think finance, management can live with this. And they also have enough freedom to let the Dodgers and Yankees and everyone else go out and really compete in the free agency market to do it and pay taxes. So I think more is the same only with a higher threshold. And I also think that the money will be extended even to the players in the middle by opening that cap, so you will have fewer players under a million dollars. ”

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