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.
“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. “Outside of building a good farm system, I don’t see how you will remain competitive.”
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. The Yankees want to get under the $189 million tax threshold in 2014.
“We’ve actually increased our payroll this year,” Yankees President Randy Levine said.
“As sometimes happens, certain people like to ignore the facts instead of the reality.”