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LA Dodgers take title of biggest spenders in Major League Baseball

NEW YORK -- Zack Greinke and the Los Angeles Dodgers have knocked Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees off baseball's payroll perch, part of an offseason spending spree that has the average salary approaching US$4 million for the first time.

The Dodgers are ending the Yankees' 15-year streak as baseball's biggest spenders and as of Tuesday had a projected payroll of US$235 million, according to study of all major league contracts by The Associated Press.

New York, which last failed to top the payroll rankings in 1998, was a distant second at US$204 million. After that, it was another huge gap to Philadelphia at US$180 million, followed by Boston at US$163 million and Detroit at US$162 million.

Houston is last at US$45 million, up from US$27 million at the start of last year, and Miami at US$48 million remains 29th.

Some large-market teams are among the smaller spenders, with the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs projected at US$89 million, ranked 22nd and 23rd.

Rodriguez, who holds the record for the largest deal in baseball history at US$275 million over 10 years, is suspended for the season for violations of baseball's drug agreement and labor contract. Because of the ban, he will earn only US$2,868,852 of his US$25 million salary - 21 days pay for the 183-day season.

Greinke would have become the highest-paid player, even if Rodriguez was getting all his cash. The pitcher has a US$24 million salary in the second season of his US$147 million, six-year contract, and because he can opt out of the deal after the 2015 season, baseball's accounting rules call for his US$12 million signing bonus to be prorated over the first three seasons.

“We've got great ownership and a great fan base, and we need to do what we can to win games,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said last week in Sydney, where Los Angeles swept its opening, two-game series against Arizona.

As of Tuesday, the average salary projected to be between US$3.95 million and US$4 million, with the final figure depending on how many players are put on the disabled list by the time opening-day rosters are finalized on Sunday. That translates to a rise of 8 to 10 percent from last year's opening average of US$3.65 million and would be the largest increase since 2006 or possibly even 2001.

“I'm not surprised. With the type of revenues clubs are enjoying these days, the average salaries are going to go up,” New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said.

Illustrating the rate of escalation, the opening-day average was US$1.07 million when Derek Jeter first reached the major leagues in 1995, broke the US$2 million mark in 2001 and spurted past US$3 million in 2008.

Following Greinke on the highest-paid list are Philadelphia's Ryan Howard and Cliff Lee at US$25 million, the Yankees' CC Sabathia at US$24.3 million, and Seattle's Robinson Cano and Texas' Prince Fielder at US$24 million each.

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