NEW YORK - Alex Rodriguez will make more this year than all the Houston Astros combined - a lot more. And he won't even play the first half of the season, if at all.
A-Rod's $29 million salary tops the major leagues for the 13th straight season, according to a study of major league contracts by The Associated Press.
Rodriguez's Yankees are on track to have the highest payroll on opening day for the 15th straight year, climbing above the Los Angeles Dodgers to a projected $228.9 million with this week's acquisition of Vernon Wells.
With teams due to set opening-day rosters Sunday, the Yankees' payroll will be nearly 10 times the spending of the Astros, who have shrunk their payroll to about $25 million.
"No one expects us to do well," Astros pitcher Lucas Harrell said. "So when we do well, it's going to be kind of like, 'Oh, wow.' I definitely think we have a chance to shock a lot of people this year."
Rodriguez, recovering from hip surgery, is followed on the money list by Philadelphia pitcher Cliff Lee at $25 million.
Three of the top six will start the season on the DL, with A-Rod joined by New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana (third at $24.6 million) and Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira (sixth at $23.1 million). Wells is fourth at $24.6 million and CC Sabathia fifth at $24.3 million, giving the Yankees four of the top six.
The Astros and Miami Marlins have no such worries about pricey players getting hurt. After lifting payroll to about $100 million at the start of last year and then flopping in the first year of their new ballpark, the Marlins slashed spending to around $40 million.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig endorses the decisions, saying "every team runs in cycles."
"You have to understand where you are and not be afraid then to do what you have to do," he said.
The price of competing keeps going up. The average salary projects to about $3.67 million, up about $200,000 from the start of last season.
As always, the Yankees did as they pleased. For all the talk of austerity under owner Hal Steinbrenner, New York will break the record of $209 million it set in 2008 and top the $200 million mark for the sixth straight season. While the Yankees will pay luxury tax for the 11th consecutive year in 2013, they want to get under the $189 million tax threshold in 2014.
For much of the offseason, it appeared as if the Dodgers would emerge as baseball's biggest spenders.
Just 12th at $95 million on opening day last year, the Dodgers climbed to about $216 million after acquiring Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford from Boston last summer, when they also added Hanley Ramirez and Brandon League. Los Angeles then signed Zack Greinke during the offseason for $147 million. The Yankees had been the only previous team to reach $200 million.
"Everybody knows it's not about the money. It's about how they're going to play together," said All-Star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, whose Colorado Rockies will have a payroll of about $75 million.
Yankees $228.9 million
Dodgers $216.3 million
Phillies $159.5 million
Red Sox $158.9 million
Tigers $149 million
Giants $142.1 million
Angels $142.1 million
Ranger $127.1 million
White Sox $124 million
Blue Jays $118.2 million
Cardinals $116.7 million
Nationals $112.4 million
Reds $110.5 million
Cubs $104.5 million
Orioles $91.7 million
Brewers $91 million
Diamondbacks $90.1 million
Braves $89.2 million
Mets $88.8 million
Mariners $84.2 million
Indians $82.5 million
Royals $80.4 million
Twins $75.5 million
Rockies $75.4 million
Padres $71.6 million
Athletics $68.5 million
Pirates $66.2 million
Rays $57 million
Marlins $39.6 million
Astros $24.3 million