MLB payrolls drop for 1st time since 2010

Spending on Major League Baseball payrolls dropped last season for the first time since 2010, an $18 million decrease attributable to drug and domestic-violence suspensions and a player retiring at midseason.

Still, even a year with flat payrolls is unusual for MLB. The only previous drops since 2002 were by $3 million in 2010 and by $32 million in 2004.

Teams combined to spend $4.23 billion on major-league payroll last year, according to figures compiled by the commissioner’s office. The decrease followed an offseason with a weak free-agent class that failed to push the average higher.

Seattle second baseman Robinson Cano lost about $11.7 million and Chicago White Sox catcher Welington Castillo approximately $3.5 million after positive drug tests. Closer Roberto Osuna’s domestic-violence suspension cost him roughly $2.1 million from Toronto and Houston, and Baltimore outfielder Colby Rasmus walked away from about $1.5 million rather than try to come back from a hip injury.

World Series champion Boston had the highest payroll for the first time since the free-agent era started in 1976 at $230 million. The Giants had the second-highest regular payroll at $210 million, followed by the Cubs at $199 million. The Dodgers dropped to fourth at $196 million after leading the major leagues for four straight years.

In a sign of increasing parity, a record 24 teams had $100 million payrolls.

MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem said the slice of revenue going to major- and minor-league players last year was 54.2 percent, the same as in 2012. He cited a $9.4 billion revenue figure for 2018, up from $9.1 billion in 2017. MLB pegged the average salary increase at 29.1 percent since 2012 and the average luxury-tax payroll rise since then at 28.4 percent.

“So although the top payroll in 2018 was the lowest since 2012, the average payroll has increased significantly, which means MLB has had payroll compression — which is a good thing for competitive balance,” he said.

Sabathia cleared: Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia has been cleared to resume working out, including baseball activities.

The 38-year-old left-hander from Vallejo had a blockage in one artery to his heart and had a procedure Dec. 11 to insert a stent to clear the blockage. Sabathia had a scheduled follow-up stress test Tuesday, according to the team, and was cleared to work out.

Sabathia is part of a projected rotation that includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman hopes to trade former A’s right-hander Sonny Gray, who struggled and was booed by Yankees fans. Cashman said he would step up trade efforts after Sabathia was given a go-ahead.

Dodgers trade for reliever: Los Angeles acquired right-hander Jaime Schultz from the Rays for minor-league right-hander Caleb Sampen.

Schultz was 2-2 with a 5.64 ERA in 22 appearances with one start for Tampa Bay last year.

Briefly: Left-hander Hector Santiago, 31, agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets with an invitation to spring training. Santiago, who had a 4.50 ERA and two saves in 42 relief appearances and seven starts last year for the White Sox, would get a $2 million salary in the major leagues if added to the 40-man roster. … Reliever Kelvin Herrera, a two-time All-Star who won a World Series ring with Kansas City, finalized an $18 million, two-year contract with the White Sox.

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