Despite a couple of record-breaking free-agent contracts and several massive extensions signed during the offseason, it appears the average salary for a Major League Baseball player is poised to drop for a second consecutive year, according to Ronald Blum of The Associated Press.
While the finalization of Opening Day rosters could tweak overall financials, estimates as of Monday evening have the average salary at $4.36 million for 2019. This is down from $4.41 million at the start of 2018 and from $4.45 million in 2017, according to Associated Press calculations.
Though Bryce Harper and Manny Machado signed megadeals on the open market, some high-profile players like Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel remain unsigned as Opening Day nears.
Even two-time AL MVP Mike Trout admitted after signing his 12-year extension with the Los Angeles Angels that this winter's slow free-agency period helped push him toward agreeing to the deal.
As a result of concerns that free agency is not as viable for players as it once was, the Major League Baseball Players' Association and union head Tony Clark are attempting an "unprecedented" early start to labor negotiations, according to Blum.
"Free agency is part of what drives baseball's economic system and it needs to remain a meaningful option for players going forward," Clark said in a statement.
Agent Scott Boras' solution is to introduce the concept of a "franchise player," which would allow teams to circumvent the luxury tax in certain situations.
"Every club needs to allow designation of a luxury tax exception, and that is they get a player that they can sign who is not included in their luxury tax computation," Boras said. "That way we're assured the teams can have a franchise player and many good players because every sports league should have Goliaths and every sports league should have Davids."
One criticism levied at clubs during the offseason was that few teams appeared to be actively attempting to win in 2019. This may best be exemplified by the overall disparity in team payrolls.
Three teams - the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Chicago Cubs - enter the season with payrolls north of $200 million and are the only teams projected to cross the $206-million luxury tax threshold, according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports.
Meanwhile, eight clubs - the Tampa Bay Rays, Pittsburgh Pirates, Miami Marlins, Baltimore Orioles, Oakland Athletics, Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres, and Kansas City Royals - have projected payrolls of under $100 million.
The current collective bargaining agreement between the league and the union is scheduled to expire after the 2021 season.