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 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.
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.
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 Miami Marlins slashed spending to around $40 million.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig endorses the decisions, saying “every team runs in cycles.”
The average salary projects to about $3.67 million, up about $200,000 from the start of last season.
For all the Yankees’ 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 in their first full season since a group headed by Mark Walter, Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson bought the club for $2 billion from Frank McCourt.
Ranked 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.
BRAVES 2, ASTROS (SS) 0
At Kissimmee, Fla., Paul Maholm extended his streak of not allowing an earned run to 242/3 innings as the Atlanta Braves beat a split squad of Houston Astros 2-0 in the final Grapefruit League game for both teams.
Maholm allowed two hits with two strikeouts in four innings to end the spring with an ERA of 1.53. Braves reliever Craig Kimbrel, who had 42 saves last season but has struggled during camp, walked two in one inning. He had a 5.63 ERA.
Both teams left Florida almost immediately following a game that lasted 2 hours, 7 minutes. Most starters were gone well before the end.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he team was ready to head to Atlanta and prepare for Monday’s opener against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Mets’ Santana likely to miss season with torn shoulder
Johan Santana may have thrown his final pitch for the New York Mets and perhaps the last of his big league career.
The Mets said the two-time Cy Young Award winner probably has re-torn the anterior capsule in his left shoulder and likely will need a second operation that would sideline him for the entire season. Santana missed 2011 following his first shoulder surgery.
New York owes the 34-year-old left-hander $31 million more as part of the $137.5 million, six-year deal he signed before the 2008 season, and general manager Sandy Alderson said the remainder of the contract is not covered by insurance.