NEW YORK — The New York Mets are on pace to have baseball’s highest payroll for the first time since 1989, among a record six teams to pay a spending penalty.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, who began the season as the top spenders, fell to second place due to the suspension of Trevor Bauer.
New York entered the last full month of the season with a payroll of $273.9 million, according to figures as of Aug. 31 compiled by Major League Baseball. The Dodgers are second with $267.2 million, followed by the New York Yankees with $254.4 million.
The Mets hope to win their first World Series title since 1986.
“I have expectations that the Mets will be the last team standing. What else is there? I mean, that’s why we get up in the morning every day,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said Sunday. “It’s kind of cold. It’s kind of cruel, but I’d rather know up front what the endgame is supposed to be. Some people spend their whole lives not knowing exactly what success is supposed to be. No one has to come in here to tell me how we’re doing. There’s a scoreboard and a standings. It’s right there. If you don’t like it, play better.”
Mets pitcher Max Scherzer, at a major league-high $43.3 million, makes about $5 million less than the entire Oakland team and matches his teammates Jacob deGrom Y Francis Lindor for about $103 million, more than eight of the 30 clubs.
The last time the Mets surpassed MLB in payroll, their total was $21.3 million.
The Dodgers’ payroll fell when Bauer was suspended for two years without pay on April 29 for violating the sport’s domestic violence policy. Bauer’s salary in 2022 was $32 million, but he was reduced to what he was owed at the time of suspension: $3.8 million. He is defying discipline before a referee.
Los Angeles led in payroll in both 2020 and 2021. The Dodgers set a payroll record with $291 million in 2015.
The Mets’ payroll has risen steadily since Steven Cohen bought the team from the Wilpon and Katz families after the 2020 season. The Mets’ spending rose from $146 million in 2019 to $199 million last year, the first season after the pandemic, and negotiators said last March that a new tax threshold was aimed at him. Cohen then joked, “A bridge had better be named after you.”
For luxury tax purposes, which uses average annual values for players on 40-player rosters, the Mets are on track to set a record $298.8 million and dwarf the 2015 Dodgers’ $297.9 million. Luxury tax payrolls include just over $16 million per team for benefits and $1.67 million for each club’s share of the new $50 million pre-arbitration player fund.
The Mets are in line for a $29.9 million tax, midseason trades boosted their tax payroll from an opening day projection of $289.3 million and surpassed the new $290 million threshold in the March deal that ended a 99-day lockout.
The Dodgers opened this season with a $310 million tax payroll, on track to pay a record $47 million fine. Their tax payroll was reduced to $289.96 million by August 31, leaving them just below the Cohen tax. With higher tax rates as a repeat offender, the Dodgers are on track to pay $29.4 million.
The Yankees have a tax payroll of $267 million and a projected tax of $9.4 million, and the Phillies at $243 million should owe $2.6 million.
Boston, just above the first threshold of $234.5 million, would owe about $900,000. After paying taxes for the first time last year, San Diego is a second offender with a payroll of about $233 million and a tax of just over $800,000.
The four tax thresholds this year are $230 million, $250 million, $270 million and $290 million.
First time offenders pay 20% on the amount above the first threshold, 32% above the second, 62.5% above the third and 80% above the fourth.
As a repeat offender, the Dodgers pay 30% over first, 42% over second, 75% over third and 90% over fourth.
The Yankees have paid $348 million in taxes since the sanctions began in 2003, followed by the Dodgers’ $182 million.
Only once before have six teams paid taxes, with the Dodgers and Yankees joined in 2016 by the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants for a total of $74 million.
Oakland has the lowest regular payroll at $49 million and the lowest tax payroll at $65 million.
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Mets have highest payroll in MLB; 6 teams will pay tax