COLUMN: MLB teams should have a salary cap


AP Photo | Lynne Sladky

Pitcher Johnny Cueto speaks with the news media after signing a contract with the Miami Marlins baseball team, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Miami. Cueto signed a one-year contract with the Marlins with a club option for 2024. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

By Zachary Bertram, Senior Sports Reporter

A few of the many reasons why people enjoy sports are because of the parity and unpredictability that sports bring us. Because of this, I believe that there should be a salary cap for all 30 teams around Major League Baseball.

Of the four major American sports, (football, basketball, baseball and hockey) baseball is the only one that does not have a salary cap. Not having a salary cap leads to unbalanced teams, and takes away from the parity and unpredictability of the game.

Since there is no salary cap, it makes it much easier for the big market teams, who bring in the most money to dominate the league. Small market teams, who don’t bring in much revenue have a much tougher time competing.

For example, the teams that bring in the most money, and spend the most money, such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are able to excel. These big market teams are almost always found at the top of the standings.

In the case of the Dodgers, they had the second highest payroll in the MLB for the 2022 season at $293,330,382, which helped them win their ninth National League West division championship in the last 10 years, including a World Series title in the 2020 season. The Dodgers also had the highest payroll in the league in their 2020 title season.

As for the Red Sox, they also have had the luxury of being able to spend much more money than other teams. This helped them win four American League East division championships in the last 10 years, highlighted by two World Series titles in 2013 (in which they had the fourth highest payroll) and in 2018 (in which they had the highest payroll in the league.)

The Yankees are another big market team who spends a lot of money. They were able to make the playoffs in seven of the last eight years, including American League Championship Series appearances in 2017 and 2019. In 2017 the Yankees had the seventh highest payroll, and in 2019 they had the third highest payroll. 

Teams like the Miami Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals aren’t as fortunate when it comes to spending money.

Because of low attendance and low revenue, the Miami Marlins are one team that isn’t able to spend nearly as much money as most other teams and are often forced to trade up and coming young stars to bigger market teams who can afford to pay said players. For example, the Marlins were forced to trade 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees and they were forced to trade future NL MVP Christian Yelich to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Marlins have made the postseason just once in the last 19 seasons. 

Another team that has struggled to keep talent because of lack of revenue is the Pittsburgh Pirates. They were forced to trade superstar pitcher Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros and 2014 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants. The Pirates are yet to make the postseason since the 2015 season.

One more small market team that has not been able to hold on to their young talent is the Kansas City Royals. After a World Series Appearance in 2014 and a World Series win in 2015, the Royals lost several of their key pieces. Those pieces included All-Star pitcher Johnny Cueto, who signed with the San Francisco Giants and All-Star utility man Ben Zobrist, who signed with the Chicago Cubs. The Royals have not returned to the playoffs since 2015.

I believe if the MLB had a salary cap, it would be much easier for small market teams to compete, leading to more parity and unpredictability in the league. It would also make it much harder for the very valuable, big market teams to trade for and sign most of the young players from small market teams. This would help stop teams such as the Dodgers and Yankees from dominating the league.