The concept of a salary cap is very common in professional sports leagues. But that of the wage floor is much less. By salary floor, we are talking about the minimum that a team must spend during a season. It exists in the NHL, but does not exist in the NFL, nor the NBA, nor the MLS, nor in major league baseball.
In the NHL, for the year 2021-2022, the salary floor is $ 60.2 million and the ceiling is $ 81.5 million. By imposing a fairly high floor, teams are forced to have a few well-paid players, ensuring relative parity in the league. It’s just the opposite in MLB.
If we come back briefly to the salary cap, the MLB cap is “soft”. It may be exceeded, but the team that overspends will have to pay a luxury tax, and even could face penalties if it is too far up the cap. By 2022, according to projections, three teams (out of 30) will exceed the cap, set at $ 210 million: the Yankees ($ 221 million), the Dodgers ($ 233 million) and the Mets ($ 265 million). The figures in this text are all dated December 26, 2021.
Let’s compare to the three teams that spend the least.
For now, in 2022, The Cleveland Guardians will spend $ 29.05 million. Thereupon, Jose Ramirez will earn $ 12 million, thus taking 41.31% of the total payroll alone. 15 Major players will earn more than the Guardians payroll.
The Baltimore Orioles will spend $ 23.75 million on current players. That means 29 Majors will earn more than Baltimore’s total payroll. The highest-paid player on this team is Trey Mancini, at $ 8 million, followed by Jordan Lyles, at $ 6 million.
The lowest-spending team is the Pittsburgh Pirates, with a payroll of $ 21.45 million. 35 Major players will have a higher salary.
Concretely, the teams which do not spend are found at the bottom of the ranking. In 2021, Baltimore was last of the American, with a .321 record. The Pirates finished second to last in the Nationale with a .377 record.
Nine teams will spend more than $ 150 million in 2022, eight will spend between $ 100 and $ 150 million, 10 between $ 50 and $ 100 million, and three less than $ 50 million. By setting a salary floor at $ 60 million, the league’s parity would already be a little better. Because we’ll tell each other, it’s not easy to be a supporter of a team that loses all the time (I vote for the Pirates, and that’s boring). The Pirates are 20 consecutive losing seasons between 1993 and 2012, before having three rather good seasons, and returning to the bottom of the standings thereafter.
Another thing that should help parity: have a REAL salary cap, which cannot be spent. Because if you can pay your players $ 200 million a year, you can afford the luxury tax.
Big $ 300 million deals have been offered recently, but there are still teams that haven’t offered $ 100 million deals, including the Pirates.
And some might say that teams that lose, it doesn’t matter because no one wants to see them play. But, precisely, it is because they lose that no one wants to see them play. It’s hard to watch your team play knowing they are going to lose (the Montreal Canadiens don’t even manage to fill the Bell Center when they have the right, yet they are popular). By imposing a salary floor, the teams would become more competitive, which in turn would bring in more spectators, who in turn would give money to the teams, who could spend even more to improve their performance.
And the cities that host these clubs deserve to win. In 2018, the season the Baltimore Orioles finished with an atrocious .290 record, I went to see a game in Baltimore. The stadium was super beautiful, and there was a lot of atmosphere. Imagine a winning season. Same thing in Pittsburgh. These cities deserve to support winning teams.
The MLB and the Players’ Association are in the midst of discussions for a new collective agreement and I believe it would be necessary to discuss it (from the floor), if only to boost the popularity of baseball. There’s no point having a few really popular teams if the rest of the league isn’t.
For all team salary statistics, see here.