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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.


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.


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

San Diego star shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr. was activated from the 10-day injured list in time for the opener of a highly anticipated series against the defending World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Tatis, out since suffering a partially dislocated left shoulder while taking a violent swing on April 6, was in the starting lineup and batting second for the Padres. Team officials said doctors assured them the electrifying 22-year-old couldn’t do any further damage to the shoulder if he continued playing this season . . . The Dodgers, meanwhile, will be without Cody Bellinger for an indeterminate period. The center fielder has a hairline fracture in his left fibula, revealed in a scan Thursday, that he suffered on April 5 when he was cleated by Oakland pitcher Reymin Guduan on a close play at first base . . . Atlanta scratched starter Drew Smyly and placed him on the 10-day injured list before Friday’s series opener against the Chicago Cubs due to pain in his throwing arm, which the Braves won, 5-2. The left-hander was added to the IL retroactive to April 13 with what the club called left forearm inflammation. Manager Brian Snitker said he hopes Smyly (0-0, 5.73 in two starts) will only miss one start. The Braves recalled Kyle Wright from their alternate site in Gwinnett, Ga., to start in Smyly’s place. He failed to finish the fifth, but six Atlanta pitchers held Chicago to six hits, Will Smith striking out Joc Pederson with the bases loaded to close out the more-than-four-hour game . . . Kyle Schwarber hit a game-ending homer in the ninth inning, helping Washington beat visiting Arizona, 1-0, after Max Scherzer passed Cy Young for 22nd on baseball’s career strikeouts list with 2,808. The lefty-batting Schwarber connected on a 2-1 pitch from left-hander Alex Young (0-3), sending a drive to right that traveled an estimated 463 feet for his first homer for Washington . . . Starling Marte snapped an eighth-inning tie with a three-run homer and Miami defeated San Francisco, 4-1, for its fifth victory in six games . . . JT Brubaker struck out eight in six impressive innings and Pittsburgh extended its recent surge by beating Milwaukee, 6-1. The Pirates, since losing six in a row, have won five of seven . . . Brandon Lowe hit a two-run double in the first inning off opener Nick Nelson, and AL champion Tampa Bay beat the Yankees, 8-2, for its 16th win head-to-head in their last 21 meetings. New York dropped to 5-8, and the game was stopped for about 2 minutes, 15 seconds, with Clint Frazier batting in the bottom of the eighth when about a half-dozen balls were thrown on the field from the pandemic-limited crowd of 10,202.


Six new positives in MLB COVID-19 testing

Three major league players and three staff members were positive for COVID-19 during the past week among 11,713 tests, a 0.05 percent positive rate. There have been 31 positive tests — 20 for players, 11 for staff — among 111,312 monitoring tests, a rate of 0.03 percent, the commissioner’s office said. The positive tests were among 17 of the 30 teams. There have been three COVID-related postponements, all a season-opening series between Washington and the New York Mets . . . Citing the last 22 months as “challenging in maintaining [his] responsibilities” to his family, Tim Mead is quitting as president of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, effective the middle of next month. Mead, 62, a 40-year employee of the Los Angeles Angels, took over as Hall president on June 24, 2019, from Jeff Idelson, who had held the job since 2008 . . . Along with the Red Sox-White Sox game at Fenway Park, there were two other postponements due to weather. Both Toronto and Kansas City and Colorado and the Mets will make up Friday’s games as part of doubleheaders on Saturday. The snow-out in Denver was New York’s seventh postponement of the season, having lost its season-opening series with Washington due to COVID-19 concerns and three games in Philadelphia due to rain.