According to the Associated Press, Major League Baseball payrolls dropped 4% in 2021 compared to the league’s last full season in 2019. The $4.05 billion total payrolls were the lowest amount in a fully completed year since 2015.
Payroll amounts have led to labor unrest which has led to the first work stoppage in more than a quarter-century this month when the owners locked out the players at the beginning of the month of December. The Associated Press obtained information that was sent to Major League Baseball teams by the Commissioners office that payrolls were down 4.6% from their record high of just under $4.25 billion in 2017.
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The Associated Press noted that “Payrolls rose steadily from $3 billion in 2011 to $4.07 billion in 2016, then reached a high in 2017 before receding slightly to $4.2 billion each in 2018 and ’19. Because of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting shortened season, salaries were paid at a 60/162 rate in 2020, dropping payrolls to $1.75 billion.”
Looking at payroll data from the 2021 season, The Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with a $262 million payroll which is the second-highest in major league history behind the franchise’s $291 million mark in 2015.
The Dodgers were hit with a $32.65 million luxury tax bill Monday as Major League Baseball resumed penalizing teams after a one-season suspension of the tax due to the COVID-19 pandemic. San Diego was the only other club assessed a tax, charged $1.29 million after failing to make the playoffs with a roster led by Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Yu Darvish, Wil Myers, and Eric Hosmer.
Five teams finished within $4 million of the $210 million thresholds on payrolls as calculated for luxury tax purposes: Philadelphia Phillies ($209.4 million), the New York Yankees ($208.4 million), the New York Mets ($207.7 million), the Boston Red Sox ($207.6 million) and the Houston Astros ($206.6 million).
The Dodgers have paid the luxury tax each season from 2013 to 2017, and their total bill has reached $182 million since the luxury tax began in 2003. That’s second only to the New York Yankees’ $348 million payroll.
The New York Yankees had baseball’s second-highest payroll in 2021 — not adjusted for luxury tax purposes — at nearly $204 million, their lowest in a full season since 2018. The Mets were third at a team-record $199 million in their first season under owner Steven Cohen, up from $146 million in 2019 and topping their previous high of $152 million in 2018.
The New York Mets are likely headed higher for the 2022 season after committing $254.5 million this offseason to four free agents: pitcher Max Scherzer, center fielder Starling Marte, outfielder Mark Canha and All-Star infielder Eduardo Escobar.
The 2021 World Series champions the Atlanta Braves was 14th at $148 million and according to Sports Trac.com, the Washington Nationals total payroll for 2021 was $135,018,597.
During the 2021 season, LHP Patrick Corbin led the Washington Nationals payroll with a salary of $24,416,666 which was 16.91% of the Nationals payroll. Outfielder Juan Soto earned the second-highest amount with $8,500,000 which was 5.89% of the Nationals overall payroll.