3:00pm: USA Today, correcting an error in their original report, now say the average player salary this year is $3.27MM, an increase of less than one percent from last year.
9:10am: The players on Opening Day rosters around the majors are making 17% less money this year than they did last year, according to USA Today. On average, players earned $3.2MM last year, but that figure is down to $2.7MM as the new season begins. Players are still earning lots, but their salaries dropped more this year than in any year since 1988, when USA Today started its survey. Let's run down some of the reasons why salaries are dropping:
- The weakened economy has slowed spending down for the past couple offseasons. Braves president John Schuerholz told USA Today that "the economy has affected all of us." When fans spend less, teams bring in less revenue and have less to spend on players.
- As Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd points out in the article, teams are relying on lots of young talent. Players are at their cheapest before they hit free agency, so the emphasis on youth could be lowering salaries.
- Teams are more conscious of defensive stats and people like Bill James believe younger (and therefore cheaper) players tend to play better defense better than aging ones.
- Front offices are becoming more risk-averse and are less likely to hand out multi-year deals to anyone other than elite players.