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AP: Median MLB salary down more than 6 percent since 2017

Dodgers righty Trevor Bauer is baseball's highest-paid player in 2021 at $38 million after agreeing to a $102 million, three-year contract he can terminate after one season. One of his former teams, Cleveland, is among the 12 with payrolls of less than $100 million this year.Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

The average major league salary dropped 4.8 percent to just under $4.17 million on opening day from the start of the previous full season in 2019.

The average has fallen 6.4 percent since the start of the 2017 season, when it peaked at $4.45 million, according to a study of major league contracts by The Associated Press. The salary downturn is yet another sign baseball could be headed toward labor strife and a possible work stoppage in 2022.

Baseball’s middle class has borne the brunt of the drop. The median salary — the point at which an equal number of players are above and below — is $1.15 million, down 18 percent from $1.4 million two years ago and a drop of 30 percent from the $1.65 million record high at the start of 2015.

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Of 902 players on opening-day rosters, 417 (62 percent) had salaries under $1 million, including 316 (35 percent) under $600,000.

The 50 highest-paid players are getting 33.4 percent of all salaries, up from 28.6 percent in 2017, and the 100 highest-paid are receiving 52.4 percent, an increase from 42.5 percent in 2017.

Players are unhappy with the slide in salaries under the current collective bargaining agreement, even before last year’s pandemic-shortened season, and intend to press for changes during labor talks this year to replace the contract that expires Dec. 1.

The average was just over $500,000 when AP started its salary studies in 1989 and went down just twice before 2017: After the 1994-95 strike and between the 2003 and 2004 seasons. The average has dropped 4.9 percent under the current labor agreement, which started after the 2016 season. The average rose 15.3 percent under the 2007-11 contract and 32.6 percent under the 2012-16 deal.

Average and median salaries decline over the course of the season as veterans are released and replaced by younger players making closer to the minimum.

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Padres get Tatís Jr. back in the lineup for LA showdown

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Six new positives in MLB COVID-19 testing

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