A Decade of Salary Increases in the MLB

The 2016 Major League Baseball season has officially begun for the St. Louis Cardinals, and this year fans will notice that Busch Stadium is honoring the 10th anniversary of the team’s World Series victory in 2006.

Such an anniversary is a good time to reflect on the changes that the MLB has undergone financially over the last decade.  In particular, we can look no further than the differences in the 2006 and 2016 St. Louis Cardinals’ payrolls to see how the financial landscape has changed in the sport.

The 2006 Cardinals had a total team payroll of $88.8 million, which is easily eclipsed by the 2016 squad which opens the season with $143 million in player salaries.  This dramatic increase is understandable given the rise in the average salary for an MLB player.  In 2006, this figure was at $2.8 million, while in 2016 the average player earns $4.4 million per year.

An even larger increase can be seen when looking at the number of players who earn $10 million+ each season.  In 2006, 61 MLB players had a salary of at least $10 million.  This season, we open with 127 players earning that much.  The 2006 Cardinals squad had three players in this category: Pujols, Rolen and Edmonds.  This year’s team has five players earning $11.5 million or more in contrast: Wainwright, Holliday, Molina, Leake, and Garcia.

Looking a decade into the future, could we see such increases in proportion by 2026?  Let’s at least hope that we are celebrating another World Series anniversary then, either way.