Major league salaries down 17 percent
Advertiser News Services
The salaries of major league players on opening-day rosters have plummeted 17 percent from last year, the largest decrease since USA TODAY began its annual salary survey in 1988.
"The economy has affected all of us," said Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz, whose team lowered its payroll from a year ago to $84.4 million, a 13-percent decline. "It's a fact of life."
The average player salary is $2.7 million, down from $3.2 million in 2009. Fourteen teams enter the season with lower payrolls, based on documents obtained by USA TODAY from the Major League Baseball Players Association, clubs and MLB's central office. The New York Yankees retain their lead with a payroll of $206.3 million, a 2-percent increase, while their chief American League East rival, the Boston Red Sox, are second at $162.4 million, a 33-percent increase.
"The (overall) decrease doesn't surprise me," said Chicago Cubs center fielder Marlon Byrd, whose team payroll ranks third at $146.6 million. "It has to do with all of the young talent coming on. Now, you've got 21- and 22-year-olds in the game."
The Yankees, whose payroll is nearly six times that of the Pittsburgh Pirates' $34.9 million, are led by third baseman Alex Rodriguez's $33 million salary. Their starting infield will earn $85.2 million, more than 16 teams.
"We're struggling to sign (first baseman Prince Fielder)," Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said, "and the Yankees' infield is making more than our team."
The Minnesota Twins made a 49-percent increase to a franchise-record $97.6 million. And that's not including Joe Mauer's eight-year, $184 million deal that starts in 2011.
CLIFF LEE PLACED DL
Seattle Mariners ace Cliff Lee was placed on the 15-day disabled list with an abdominal strain, an expected move given the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner's health troubles this spring.
Lee is still only throwing on flat ground, which he did yesterday morning on a windy, chilly day at the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park under close watch of athletic trainer Rick Griffin.
Veteran designated hitter Mike Sweeney made the team, having his contract purchased from Triple-A Tacoma. The 36-year-old Sweeney arrived at the ballpark early yesterday and was called into the manager's office by GM Jack Zduriencik to get the good news.
Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler was placed on the disabled list as expected yesterday, among several moves the team made to finalize its 25-man roster.
Kinsler has been out since sustaining a high right ankle sprain March 12.
The Rangers also put right-handers Tommy Hunter (left oblique strain) and Warner Madrigal (right forearm soreness) on the disabled list. The DL moves were retroactive to March 26, meaning the three players will be eligible to be activated Saturday.
DICE-K STILL AILING
The Boston Red Sox set their opening day roster by adding left-hander Scott Schoeneweis and placing Daisuke Matsuzaka and another pitcher on the disabled list.
Matsuzaka was put on the 15-day DL on Saturday with a neck strain. Junichi Tazawa went on the 60-day DL and is scheduled to have season-ending ligament reconstruction surgery on his right elbow tomorrow.
The Red Sox had signed Schoeneweis to a minor league contract after the reliever was released by the Milwaukee Brewers on March 25.
TRIO PLACED ON DL
The San Francisco Giants placed second basemen Freddy Sanchez (left shoulder), Emmanuel Burriss (left foot) and outfielder Fred Lewis (ribcage) on the 15-day disabled list, setting their roster for opening day today at Houston.
Manager Bruce Bochy also announced yesterday that John Bowker had beat out Nate Schierholtz to start in right field.
Also yesterday, the Giants purchased the contracts of fifth starter Todd Wellemeyer and righty reliever Guillermo Mota and reassigned right-hander Denny Bautista to Fresno.
AND WHAT'S MORE ...
Pitchers Carlos Monasterios and Ramon Ortiz made the opening day roster for the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Hong-Chih Kuo (elbow) went on the disabled list retroactive to March 26. General manager Ned Colletti announced the moves yesterday.