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Which MLB teams have the biggest payroll changes in 2015?

Judging by the increase in total Opening Day player salaries from 2014 to 2015, baseball does not seem to be hurting financially in any way.

Using the USA Today database of Opening Day salaries, teams will be paying a total of $3,658,284,542 in salaries in 2015. This does not include bonuses earned for things like postseason awards, All-Star selections, or playoff shares paid out at the end of the year.  This is a jump of 8.81% from 2014 and is slightly larger than the jump of 8.09% in total salaries from 2013 to 2014.

There was one rather curious occurrence in the list of total team salaries, and that’s at the very top.  The Los Angeles Dodgers led all of baseball with $230,352,402 in player salaries in 2015, though interestingly that was a drop of nearly $11 million from their total salaries in 2014.  Overall, the Dodgers were just one of seven teams with a drop in payroll in 2015, compared to 23 teams that increased their payroll from the previous year.

Here are the top five and bottom five teams with the biggest change in payroll in 2015 from 2014 by total dollars:





Largest Increases








Chicago Cubs








San Diego












Largest Declines
















Los Angeles Dodgers









Miami just can’t seem to decide what to do with their payroll.  Following a number of flashy free agent signings before the 2012 to coincide with the opening of their new park, they quickly shed themselves of said contracts the following offseason, before doubling their payroll in 2015.  The additions of Martin Prado and Dan Haren were the main reasons for this jump.  Interestingly, Giancarlo Stanton’s huge contract in the offseason had no impact on the team’s placement, as his annual salary is identical in 2015 to that in 2014 ($6.5 million).

Chicago Cubs

Everyone’s favorite preseason darling to make the playoffs (and possibly break the curse within the next couple of years), the additions of Jon Lester, Miguel Montero, and Dexter Fowler in the offseason for a combined $41.5 million were the offseason expenditures that landed the Cubs in the top five.


Max Scherzer and his $17+ million is part of the reason the Nationals appear here.  However, Jordan Zimmermannn also got a $9.5 million raise in the offseason, and Doug Fister is also making $4 million more this year.  Technically Dan Uggla’s $13+ million salary counts against the Nationals here, even though the Braves are paying the majority of his salary last year (the list does not take into account player salaries which may be paid in part by their former teams as is the case with players like Dan Uggla, Prince Fielder, and some others).

San Diego

San Diego’s whirlwind offseason in which they traded for an entire starting outfield unsurprisingly led to a huge spike in payroll since 2014.  In fact, the top four earning players on their team in 2015 (Matt Kemp, Melvin Upton Jr, Justin Upton, and James Shields, who was acquired via free agency) were not on their team in 2014.  These players account for over $61 million of salary, just under half of the team’s total in 2015.


Though they signed Robinson Cano to a huge contract before the 2014 season they also increased payroll by the following season as well.  Cano and Felix Hernandez remain the biggest earners on the team, though the acquisitions of Nelson Cruz, Austin Jackson (acquired at the trade deadline in 2014), J.A. Happ, and Seth Smith for a combined $34.6 million more or less make up the entire increase in Seattle payroll in 2015.


The Phillies still “feel” like a team bloated with players past their prime with oversized contracts, what with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee still earning money in Philadelphia. However, no longer employing A.J. Burnett, Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd, Kyle Kendrick, Mike Adams, Roberto Hernandez, and others has made the inevitable decline from their dominance in the late 2000’s somewhat more manageable for Phillies fans.


Arizona had the second highest loss in total dollars and the largest loss percentage wise from 2014 to 2015.  Shedding $46 million in salaries isn’t easy to do, but the Diamondbacks found a way, primarily by no longer employing seven of their nine highest earners in 2014 (Martin Prado, Brandon McCarthy, Miguel Montero, Cody Ross, Trevor Cahill, J.J. Putz, and Gerardo Parra), with Aaron Hill and Bronson Arroyo being the lone holdovers.


Their top five highest earners in 2014 (Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Jose Bautista, R.A. Dickey, and Edwin Encarnacion) still comprise their top five in 2015, though taking the contracts of their next seven highest paid players in 2014 (Brandon Morrow, Melky Cabrera, Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus, J.A. Happ, Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos) for a combined $43 million is why they had a net loss in payroll in 2015.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The aforementioned Dodgers fulfill a curious spot on this list.  In 2014 they were paying a whopping $33 million more in player salaries than the next highest team (Yankees), and by 2015 that difference was “only” $17 million (again outpacing the Yankees).  Shedding themselves of Matt Kemp’s contract, and taking Josh Beckett’s and Hanley Ramirez’s contracts off the books in 2015 are the primary reasons they’re near the top of this list.


Of the teams with the biggest drops in payroll, the Braves are the only team above with a 2014 payroll of less than $100 million. Normally I’d make some comment that the Braves need to save up to pay for their suburban stadium opening in 2017 though that wouldn’t be entirely accurate.  As mentioned above for the Nationals, Uggla’s not playing for Atlanta any more even though they’re still sending him paychecks, but even leaving Uggla aside the Braves’ other top four salaried players in 2014 are playing elsewhere in 2015, and that doesn’t even include Jason Heyward. They did take on some new salaries in 2015, including Nick Markakis, Trevor Cahill, and others, but the Braves are definitely on the “thrifty” end of the 2015 payroll spectrum.


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