After a muted three-game Opening Day over the weekend, Major League Baseball's season gets into full swing Monday with 24 teams scheduled to play 12 games throughout the day. While nobody knows which team will come out on top this season, one thing is certain: MLB players will be compensated handsomely.
Baseball's average salary on Opening Day 2016 is $4.38 million, an uptick of 4.4 percent over last year, according to a study of contract terms by the Associated Press. Baseball contracts can famously feature eye-popping figures, a theme epitomized by New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez, who has signed a couple of massive deals and will have made about $420 million in on-field earnings by his planned retirement in 2017.
The massive contracts keep coming, and that helped fuel the rise in MLB's average salary. There are now 38 players making at least $20 million per year, a notable jump from 27 last year. In contrast, just eight NFL players will hit $20 million per year in 2016, according to Spotrac.
A couple of the headline-grabbing MLB contracts during the offseason were Zack Greinke's six-year, $206.5 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks and David Price's seven-year, $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox. Those are the second and third biggest contracts in MLB (by per-year payout), respectively, trailing only the deal for the L.A. Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw at $33 million per year.
The Chicago Cubs were a big spender this offseason, increasing payroll by $51 million as they added Jason Heyward, John Lackey and Ben Zobrist. The Philadelphia Phillies, in the midst of a rebuild, worked to cut payroll by $43 million.
The Dodgers now lead the league in total payroll at $233.9 million, followed by the Yankees at $225 million, the Detroit Tigers at $196 million and the Red Sox at $190 million.
While top MLB players make the biggest salaries by far in American sports, the NBA has the highest average salary at $6 million, according to players' union figures, which is largely fueled by basketball's far smaller rosters. NHL players made about $2.8 million on average according to its latest players' union figures, while NFL players made about $2.47 million on average.
And while the average MLB salary rose, the median salary actually fell to $1.5 million, dropping from $1.65 million. The number of players making at least $1 million fell as well, from 508 to 492. Still, 125 players make at least $10 million per year, an increase of two from last year, according to the AP.