AP: MLB's Average Salary Drops to $3.9M, Declines for 3rd Straight Year

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2021

Rain drops cover a baseball logo before Game 1 of the Major League Baseball World Series between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

The average salary across Major League Baseball dropped in 2020 for the third straight season, per the Associated Press.

Adjustments to the year due to COVID-19 led to players accepting only about 37 percent of their salaries on a prorated basis, but the average salary would have been $3.89 million under normal circumstances. This represents a 4.2 percent drop from the $4.05 million mark in 2019.

The MLB Players Association has tracked payroll figures since 1967 and hadn't seen a drop in consecutive years until 2018 and 2019.

After the mean player salary peaked at $4.1 million in 2017, this trend could continue with limited spending this offseason compared to past years:

Spotrac @spotrac

#MLB Free Agency Totals 2016: $2.4B 2017: $1.3B 2018: $1.4B 2019: $1.8B 2020: $2.1B 2021: $970M Unless Trevor Bauer signs for $700M, it’s safe to say the 2021 offseason is going to be quite a bit behind…as expected. https://t.co/XRQcNgh8Tf

Several teams, including Cleveland and the Colorado Rockies, spent the offseason shedding payroll through trades and other means.

"We have been consistent in our position that the current trends in our game need to be addressed regarding the lack of incentive to compete and the need for the system to better reflect the value created by players throughout the service time spectrum," players union executive director Tony Clark said.

While the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lack of fans in the stands during the 2020 season led to financial hardship for teams, the league also gets significant revenue from television, including a new deal with Turner Sports worth approximately $3.2 billion.

The players union has called out the concept of teams tanking by cutting major league payroll and filed a grievance against the Miami Marlins, Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays in 2018 for mishandling revenue-sharing money.