While cutting payroll, the Mets' owners waged a legal fight against the trustee for victims of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, who sought as much as $1 billion. The case was settled last month for up to $162 million.
Oakland, unhappy it hasn't been able to get permission from MLB to build a ballpark in San Jose, has the lowest payroll at just under $53 million, according to the AP study. While Pittsburgh hiked up to $63 million after its MLB-record 19th straight losing season, the Pirates are getting $11.5 million of that back from the Yankees as part of the A.J. Burnett trade.
"The payroll thing is kind of an excuse honestly," Pirates outfielder Nate McLouth said. "You don't play dollar against dollar. You have to go out on the field and do it. You know teams with higher payrolls have players who have prolonged success as opposed to teams with lower payrolls, but honestly that doesn't play into anything when we play or step on the field."
Still, a high payroll usually means a better chance of reaching the playoffs.
The Yankees, who have reached the postseason in 16 of the last 17 years, reached $200 million not even including the money they are paying Pittsburgh to take Burnett off their hands. Or the $2.5 million owed Andy Pettitte once he's added to their roster.
After the Yankees there's a drop to the Phillies at $174 million and the Red Sox at $173 million, followed by the Angels at $155 million and the Tigers at $132 million.
"It seems like the landscape out there is getting a little bit flatter," said Theo Epstein, the Cubs' new president of baseball operations. "We'll see how it all plays out."
A-Rod was followed on the money list by the Angels' Vernon Wells at $24.6 million, followed by Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia ($24.3 million), returning Mets ace Johan Santana ($23.15 million) and Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira ($23.13 million). Fielder's deal with Detroit placed him in a tie for sixth with Minnesota's Joe Mauer at $23 million.
The AP's figures include salaries and prorated shares of signing bonuses and other guaranteed income. For some players, parts of deferred signing bonuses and salaries are discounted to reflect current values.
Million-dollar salaries dropped slightly, from 453 to 448. Still, that's nearly 53 percent of the 852 players on opening-day rosters and disabled lists. The number of $10 million players increased from 82 to 89, and $20 million stars rose from 10 to 14.
Sixty-eight players make the $480,000 minimum — boosted from $414,000 under baseball's new labor contract. The median salary, the point at which an equal numbers are above and below, declined by $25,000 to $1,075,000, down from a record $1,125,000 in 2009.
There were 103 players on the disabled list, nine more than at the start of last year and the most on opening day since 2008.
AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley and AP Sports Writers Mike Fitzpatrick, Will Graves, Andrew Seligman, Noah Trister and Steven Wine contributed to this report.
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