Bryce Harper’s 13-year, $330 million mega-contract with the Philadelphia Phillies wasn’t enough to lift the rest of the league. As the regular season opened Thursday, opening day payrolls were down about $8 million, according to Spotrac.
The average payroll of all 30 teams’ 25-man rosters was $106.7 million in 2019. That figure was $114.5 million in 2018.
#MLB 2019 Opening Day Payrolls are over $3M lower than 2018 on average:
2019 Average: $133.6M
2018 Average: $136.8M
25-Man Opening Day Payrolls are down almost $8M:
2019 Average: $106.7M
2018 Average: $114.5Mhttps://t.co/llfeTyNkbL
— Spotrac (@spotrac) March 28, 2019
That decrease is yet another explanation of the schism between Major League Baseball and the Players Association. Players have been vocal this offseason about the slow free-agent market and lack of spending. That data from Spotrac seems to prove their point.
In fairness, there are some legitimate reasons that a team would decrease its opening day payroll during the offseason. Maybe it lost a couple key free agents or decided to engage in a complete tear down. While unfortunate for fans, these things do happen.
But it’s worth wondering whether that money is being re-invested into the team. Due to the restrictions introduced in the last collective-bargaining agreement, teams don’t have as many avenues outside of free agency to use that money.
There are slot values and draft pools that limit spending on the draft. The international free-agent market was revamped to prevent players from Japan and Cuba from earning multi-million dollar contracts.
Those savings aren’t being used to help fans, either. The cost of going to games remains high. While some teams offer tickets for under $20, fans may still have to pay for service fees, parking and concessions at the park. It all adds up quickly.
If teams aren’t going to spend in free agency, they aren’t going to spend anywhere else. That $8 million just goes back to the team.
This wouldn’t be as big of an issue if baseball was dying, but that’s not the case. Revenues were at an all-time high following the 2018 season.
There’s more than enough money to go around, but teams don’t want to spend it. Behind closed doors, a championship belt is being awarded to the team that spends the least during the arbitration process. That’s a bad look by the league.
Unless something drastic changes in the next couple seasons, the new collective-bargaining agreement may be the only recourse the players have to turn the tide.
The current deal is set to expire in December 2021. While that’s still a long way off, plenty of players have already spoken on the importance of those negotiations.
There’s still plenty of time left for teams to spend money and reverse this trend. But if that doesn’t happen, the next round of labor talks are going to be contentious ... and that’s putting it lightly.
More from Yahoo Sports: