According to the Associated Press, MLB teams cut payrolls for their active rosters and disabled lists by $47 million from Opening Day in 2008 to the first day of this season, totalling a drop of 1.7 percent.
"Clubs were cautious all winter with regards to the economy and were concerned the economy might have an impact on club revenue," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer. "The spending reflected that for many clubs."
The drop in salaries is the first since 2004 and just the second since the 1994-95 strike.
While the Yankees still have the highest payroll in the league, they stand $7.6 million less than at the start of last season.
The San Diego Padres cut the most payroll, down $30.9 million from last year.
While the 10 highest spending teams lowered their payroll by an average of $7.8 million, the 10 lowest raised spending by an average of $4.5 million. This is a small step toward commissioner Bud Selig's goal of closing the gap between rich and poor teams.
"We're seeing a continuation of the trend of mid and small-market teams developing their own talent and keeping their own talent," DuPuy said, "and I think that's reflected in the totals that you see."
The lowest spenders this year are the Marlins at $37 million and the Padres at $43 million.
A majority of players, 433 of 818, make at least $1 million, one player fewer than last year's record. A record 86 were at $10 million or more, an increase of one player.
Fifty-eight players are at the $400,000 minimum this year. The median salary, the point at which there are an equal number of players' salaries above and below, rose $150,000 to a record $1.15 million.
The average salary decreases throughout the season as veterans are released and replaced by younger players, although figures vary because of different methods of calculation.