ARLINGTON, Texas – A crush of media surrounded Carl Crawford(notes) at his locker before he even had a chance to dress to for his first game with the Boston Red Sox, a showcase matchup against the defending American League champion Texas Rangers on what could be termed opening day 2.0.
Part of the allure of Crawford, a fleet outfielder with a potent bat, is the staggering seven-year, $142 million contract he signed in December to join the Red Sox as a free agent. But as numbers made available Friday illustrate, Crawford’s paycheck isn’t even among the top 20 among major league players for 2011.
Alex Rodriguez(notes) of the New York Yankees is the highest paid player for the 11th year on a row at $32 million, a salary that dwarfs Crawford’s $14.9 million and is only $4 million shy of matching the entire payroll of baseball’s stingiest team, the Kansas City Royals.
And for all the money the Red Sox spent on Crawford and others this offseason, their $161.8 million payroll ranks a distant third behind the Yankees’ $202.7 million and the Philadelphia Phillies’ $173 million. The defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants have a payroll of $118.2 million, one of 12 teams that cracked the $100 million mark.
The Yankees have three of the four highest-paid players. Pitcher CC Sabathia(notes) is third at $24.3 million and first baseman Mark Teixeira(notes) is fourth at $23.1 million. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Vernon Wells(notes) is No. 2 on the list at $26.2 million.
Overall, salaries are about what they were a year ago, increasing only 0.2 percent. The average salary for the 844 players on opening day rosters and the disabled list was $3.3 million. Salaries have increased fairly steadily since 2004, the last time they dropped.
A flood of numbers accompanies opening day, when the 25-man roster of each team is solidified. In addition to the payroll calculations compiled by the Associated Press, Major League Baseball released data revealing that 27.2 percent of MLB players (234 of 846) were born outside the U.S. and that they come from 14 different countries and U.S. territories.
The percentage of foreign-born players has held fairly steady, down slightly from 2007 and 2005, when a record 29 percent of players came from outside the U.S. The Dominican Republic is the foreign country with the most MLB players, with 86. Venezuela is next with 62, the country’s highest total ever. Most of the foreign-born players are from Latin America, although Canada produced 16 players. Ten are from Japan, three are from Taiwan and one (outfielder Shin-Soo Choo(notes)) is from South Korea.
The Yankees have the most foreign players with 16, and the Los Angeles Dodgers are the most diverse team, with players from Canada, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Taiwan and Venezuela in addition to the U.S.
Among the top 10 highest paid players for 2011, only two are foreign-born – New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana(notes) ($21.7 million) and Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera(notes) ($20 million), both of whom are from Venezuela.
Crawford signed the most lucrative deal last offseason, but his biggest salaries don’t kick in until next year: He will be paid from $19.5 million to $21 million every year from 2012 through 2017. He also was paid a $6 million signing bonus, which wasn’t calculated in his 2011 salary.
The lowest paid players are the 55 first-year players, each of whom makes the same amount: $414,000.