List of highest paid Major League Baseball players

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A man in a dark batting helmet, grey baseball uniform, and white gloves holds a baseball bat against the ground with his right hand.
Alex Rodriguez earned the highest salary in MLB in 2013 at $29,000,000. He also has the highest career earnings in MLB history.

The highest paid player in Major League Baseball (MLB) from the 2013 season is New York Yankees' third baseman Alex Rodriguez with an annual salary of $29,000,000, $4 million higher than the second-highest paid player, Cliff Lee. MLB does not have a hard salary cap, instead employing a luxury tax which applies to teams whose total payroll exceeds certain set thresholds for a given season.[1][2] Free agency did not exist in MLB prior to the end of the reserve clause in the 1970s, allowing owners before that time to wholly dictate the terms of player negotiations and resulting in significantly lower salaries. Babe Ruth, widely regarded as one of the greatest baseball players ever, earned an estimated $910,696 ($14,170,589 inflation-adjusted from 1931 dollars) over his entire playing career.[3] When asked whether he thought he deserved to earn $80,000 a year ($1,133,227 inflation-adjusted), while the president, Herbert Hoover, had a $75,000 salary, Ruth famously remarked, "What the hell has Hoover got to do with it? Besides, I had a better year than he did."[4][5]

Rodriguez has signed two record-breaking contracts over the course of his career. First, he signed a $252 million, 10-year contract with the Texas Rangers in December 2000 ($346,274,783 inflation-adjusted from 2000 dollars).[6] Sandy Alderson called the deal "stupefying", while Sports Illustrated noted that Rodriguez's early salaries under the contract ($21 million) would be greater than the annual payroll of the entire Minnesota Twins team that year ($15.8 million).[6] The deal was the largest sports contract in history, doubling the total value of Kevin Garnett's $126 million National Basketball Association contract (the previous record holder) and more than doubling Mike Hampton's $121 million contract, the previous MLB record which had been signed just days before.[6] The Rangers later traded Rodriguez to the Yankees in exchange for Alfonso Soriano before the 2004 season, though they agreed to pay $67 million of the $179 million outstanding on the contract.[7] Despite this, he opted out of the remainder of his deal after the 2007 season and renegotiated a new $275 million, 10-year agreement with the Yankees, breaking his own record for the largest sports contract.[8] Under this deal, Rodriguez also receives $6 million each if and when he ties the career home run totals of Willie Mays (660), Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755), and Barry Bonds (762), along with another $6 million for breaking Bonds' mark.[8]

First base was the highest paid position in 2010; regular starters at that position earned an average salary of $9,504,165 in compared to an overall average of $3,014,572.[9] Pitcher Nolan Ryan was the first player to earn an annual salary above $1 million, signing a $4.5 million, 4-year contract with the Houston Astros in 1979.[10] Kirby Puckett and Rickey Henderson signed the first contracts which paid an average of $3 million a year in November 1989, while 2010 was the first season where the MLB average salary rose above that same mark.[9][11] Five of the twenty highest paid players in 2013 were members of the Yankees. Their team payroll for 2013 was $228,835,490, roughly $12 million above the second-largest Los Angeles Dodgers.[12] The Yankees have drawn criticism for their payroll, with some claiming it undermines the parity of MLB.[13][14]

Key

Key
Member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
1B First baseman
2B Second baseman
3B Third baseman
SS Shortstop
LF Left fielder
CF Center fielder
RF Right fielder
C Catcher
SP Starting pitcher
RP Relief pitcher
DH Designated hitter

Highest paid players for 2013

This table refers to the salary for 2013 alone, not the overall average value of the contract. Salaries listed are according to the USA Today salary database.[15]
A man in a gray baseball uniform with red trim and the number "34" on the sleeve in red and a red baseball cap throwing a baseball (unseen) from a dirt mound
Cliff Lee was the highest paid player in 2013 not on the Yankees, and the second-highest overall.
Name Position Team(s) Salary Ref
Rodriguez, AlexAlex Rodriguez 3B New York Yankees $30,000,000 [16]
Lee, CliffCliff Lee SP Philadelphia Phillies $25,000,000 [17]
Santana, JohanJohan Santana SP New York Mets $24,644,708 [18]
Teixeira, MarkMark Teixeira 1B New York Yankees $23,125,000 [19]
Fielder, PrincePrince Fielder 1B Texas Rangers $23,000,000 [20]
Mauer, JoeJoe Mauer C Minnesota Twins $23,000,000 [21]
Sabathia, CCCC Sabathia SP New York Yankees $23,000,000 [22]
Lincecum, TimTim Lincecum SP San Francisco Giants $22,250,000 [23]
Greinke, ZackZack Greinke SP Los Angeles Dodgers $21,000,000 [24]
Wells, VernonVernon Wells LF New York Yankees $21,000,000 [25]
Gonzalez, AdrianAdrian Gonzalez 1B Los Angeles Dodgers $21,000,000 [26]
Cabrera, MiguelMiguel Cabrera 3B Detroit Tigers $21,000,000 [27]
Cain, MattMatt Cain SP San Francisco Giants $20,833,333 [28]
Hamels, ColeCole Hamels SP Philadelphia Phillies $20,500,000 [29]
Kemp, MattMatt Kemp CF Los Angeles Dodgers $20,250,000 [30]
Verlander, JustinJustin Verlander SP Detroit Tigers $20,100,000 [31]
Halladay, RoyRoy Halladay SP Philadelphia Phillies $20,000,000 [32]
Zito, BarryBarry Zito SP San Francisco Giants $20,000,000 [33]
Crawford, CarlCarl Crawford LF Los Angeles Dodgers $20,000,000 [34]
Howard, RyanRyan Howard 1B Philadelphia Phillies $20,000,000 [35]
Hernandez, FelixFelix Hernandez SP Seattle Mariners $19,857,143 [36]
Soriano, AlfonsoAlfonso Soriano LF Chicago Cubs
New York Yankees
$19,000,000 [37]
Hamilton, JoshJosh Hamilton RF Los Angeles Angels $17,400,000 [38]
Votto, JoeyJoey Votto 1B Cincinnati Reds $19,000,000 [39]
Jeter, DerekDerek Jeter SS New York Yankees $16,729,365 [40]

Highest Paid Players of 2015

This table refers to the salary for 2015 alone, not the overall average value of the contract.

Name Position Team(s) Salary Ref
Clayton Kershaw SP Los Angeles Dodgers $32,571,428 [41]
Justin Verlander SP Detroit Tigers $28,000,000 [42]
Ryan Howard 1B Philadelphia Phillies $25,000,000 [43]
Cliff Lee SP Philadelphia Phillies $25,000,000 [44]
Zack Greinke SP Los Angeles Dodgers $25,000,000 [45]
Felix Hernandez SP Seattle Mariners $24,907,142 [46]
Albert Pujols 1B Los Angeles Angels $24,050,000 [47]
Prince Fielder DH Texas Rangers $24,050,000 [48]
Robinson Cano 2B Seattle Mariners $24,000,000 [49]
Mark Teixeria 1B New York Yankees $23,125,000 [50]

Career earnings

An African American man in a white baseball uniform with "GIANTS" on the chest takes a left-handed baseball swing as a catcher kneels behind him to receive the pitch.
Though retired since 2007, Barry Bonds' career earnings of over $188 million still ranks fourth highest overall in MLB history.
Earnings up to date as of the end of the 2013 season.[E]
Name Team(s) Position Years Earnings Ref
Rodriguez, AlexAlex Rodriguez Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers
New York Yankees
SS, 3B 1994– $353,416,252 [16]
Jeter, DerekDerek Jeter New York Yankees SS 1995–2014 $253,159,364 [40]
Ramirez, MannyManny Ramirez Cleveland Indians
Boston Red Sox
Los Angeles Dodgers
Chicago White Sox
Tampa Bay Rays
LF 1993– $206,827,769 [51]
Bonds, BarryBarry Bonds Pittsburgh Pirates
San Francisco Giants
LF 1986–2007 $188,245,322 [52]
Johnson, RandyRandy Johnson Montreal Expos
Seattle Mariners
Houston Astros
Arizona Diamondbacks
New York Yankees
San Francisco Giants
SP 1988–2009 $175,550,019 [53]
Rivera, MarianoMariano Rivera New York Yankees RP 1995–2013 $169,441,825 [54]
Jones, ChipperChipper Jones Atlanta Braves 3B 1993–2012 $168,552,133 [55]
Sheffield, GaryGary Sheffield Milwaukee Brewers
San Diego Padres
Florida Marlins
Los Angeles Dodgers
Atlanta Braves
New York Yankees
Detroit Tigers
New York Mets
RF 1988–2009 $168,008,550 [56]
Helton, ToddTodd Helton Colorado Rockies 1B 1998–2013 $161,490,000 [57]
Beltrán, CarlosCarlos Beltrán Kansas City Royals
Houston Astros
New York Mets
San Francisco Giants
St. Louis Cardinals
CF, RF 1998- $160,952,782 [58]
Santana, JohanJohan Santana Minnesota Twins
New York Mets
SP 2000- $155,997,269 [18]
Maddux, GregGreg Maddux Chicago Cubs
Atlanta Braves
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
SP 1986–2008 $153,845,000 [59]
Suzuki, IchiroIchiro Suzuki Seattle Mariners
New York Yankees
RF 2001- $152,631,483 [60]
Griffey, Jr., KenKen Griffey, Jr. Seattle Mariners
Cincinnati Reds
Chicago White Sox
CF 1988–2010 $151,703,682 [61]
Clemens, RogerRoger Clemens Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays
New York Yankees
Houston Astros
SP 1984–2007 $150,601,000 [62]
Halladay, RoyRoy Halladay Toronto Blue Jays
Philadelphia Phillies
SP 1998-2013 $148,991,666 [32]
Hunter, ToriiTorii Hunter Minnesota Twins
Los Angeles Angels
Detroit Tigers
CF 1997- $146,555,000 [63]
Sabathia, CCCC Sabathia Cleveland Indians
Milwaukee Brewers
New York Yankees
SP 2001- $146,357,142 [22]
Delgado, CarlosCarlos Delgado Toronto Blue Jays
Florida Marlins
New York Mets
1B 1993–2011 $146,299,000 [64]
Martínez, PedroPedro Martínez Los Angeles Dodgers
Montreal Expos
Boston Red Sox
New York Mets
Philadelphia Phillies
SP 1992–2010 $146,259,585 [65]

Salary progression

A man in a white baseball jersey with "ASTROS" on the chest and orange and yellow stripes on his shoulders pitches a baseball with his right hand.
Nolan Ryan (pictured) became the first player to earn an average salary above $1 million in 1979. Precisely 17 years later Albert Belle became the first player to average above $10 million a year.
This list documents the progression of the highest average annual value contracts/contract extensions.[66][P]
Average annual salary Date signed Name Team Position Contract duration
(Years)
Ref(s)
$1,170,000 November 19, 1979 Ryan, NolanNolan Ryandagger Houston Astros SP 3 [10][67]
$2,500,000[a] December 15, 1980 Winfield, DaveDave Winfielddagger New York Yankees RF 10 [68][69]
$2,600,000 September 4, 1985 Murray, EddieEddie Murraydagger Baltimore Orioles 1B 5 [70][71]
$2,633,333[b] February 16, 1989 Hershiser, OrelOrel Hershiser Los Angeles Dodgers SP 3 [72][73]
$2,970,000 November 17, 1989 Saberhagen, BretBret Saberhagen Kansas City Royals SP 3 [74][75]
$3,000,000[c] November 22, 1989 Puckett, KirbyKirby Puckettdagger Minnesota Twins CF 3 [76][77]
$3,200,000 December 1, 1989 Langston, MarkMark Langston California Angels SP 5 [78][79]
$3,250,000 December 11, 1989 Davis, MarkMark Davis Kansas City Royals SP 4 [80][81]
$3,500,000 January 17, 1990 Stewart, DaveDave Stewart Oakland Athletics SP 2 [82][83]
$3,750,000 January 22, 1990 Clark, WillWill Clark San Francisco Giants 1B 4 [84][85]
$3,860,000 April 9, 1990 Mattingly, DonDon Mattingly New York Yankees 1B 5 [86][87]
$4,700,000 June 28, 1990 Canseco, JoseJose Canseco Oakland Athletics RF/DH 5 [88][89]
$5,380,000 February 2, 1991 Clemens, RogerRoger Clemens Boston Red Sox SP 4 [62][90]
$5,800,000 December 2, 1991 Bonilla, BobbyBobby Bonilla New York Mets 3B/RF 5 [91][92]
$7,100,000 March 2, 1992 Sandberg, RyneRyne Sandbergdagger Chicago Cubs 2B 4 [93][94]
$7,290,000 December 6, 1992 Bonds, BarryBarry Bonds San Francisco Giants LF 6 [52][95]
$8,500,000 January 31, 1996 Griffey, Jr., KenKen Griffey, Jr. Seattle Mariners CF 4 [61][96]
$11,000,000 November 19, 1996 Belle, AlbertAlbert Belle Chicago White Sox LF 5 [97][98]
$11,450,000 March 20, 1997 Bonds, BarryBarry Bonds San Francisco Giants LF 2 [52][99]
$11,500,000 August 10, 1997 Maddux, GregGreg Madduxdagger Atlanta Braves SP 5 [59][100]
$12,500,000 December 10, 1997 Martínez, PedroPedro Martínez Boston Red Sox SP 6 [65][101]
$13,000,000 October 26, 1998 Piazza, MikeMike Piazza New York Mets C 7 [102][103]
$13,333,333 November 25, 1998 Vaughn, MoMo Vaughn Anaheim Angels 1B 6 [104][105]
$15,000,000 December 12, 1998 Brown, KevinKevin Brown Los Angeles Dodgers SP 7 [106][107]
$15,450,000[d] August 11, 2000 Clemens, RogerRoger Clemens New York Yankees SP 2[d] [62][108]
$17,000,000 October 20, 2000 Delgado, CarlosCarlos Delgado Toronto Blue Jays 1B 4 [64][109]
$25,200,000 December 10, 2000 Rodriguez, AlexAlex Rodriguez Texas Rangers SS 10 [6][16]
$27,500,000 December 13, 2007 Rodriguez, AlexAlex Rodriguez New York Yankees 3B 10 [8][16]

See also

Footnotes

  • E "Earnings" as discussed here refers to salaries paid to players under MLB contracts and does not include advertising or other sources of income. All values are listed in nominal dollars.
  • P "Average annual value" is calculated as the total value of a contract (less bonuses) divided by the number of years. A $20 million/2 year contract would have an average annual value of $10 million, even if the player actually received $9 million one season and $11 million in the other. This also does not include contracts for less than a season prorated in value for a full season such as Roger Clemens' 2006 and 2007 contracts.[62][110][111][112][113] All values are listed in nominal dollars.
  • a Dave Winfield initially negotiated a 10-year deal in 1980 worth a projected $25 million ($2.5 million per year).[69] However, Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner reportedly had not fully understood a cost of living adjustment provision in it and the 10-year contract was renegotiated a few months later. The final precise value is unclear, although it fell between $20 and $25 million in total value ($2–$2.5 million a year).[68][114][115][116]
  • b Hershiser and Frank Viola both won the 1988 Cy Young Award and Viola signed an identically-sized $7.9 million, 3-year contract two months after Hershiser.[117]
  • c Rickey Henderson signed a $12 million, 4-year contract with the Oakland Athletics on November 28, 1989, 6 days after Puckett signed his $9 million, 3-year contract.[79][118]
  • d Roger Clemens signed a contract extension during the 2000 season covering 2001 and 2002 along with a player option for 2003. Clemens was paid $10.3 million each year for 2001 and 2002, with the same $10.3 million available if he elected to play in 2003 under his option. However, Clemens also received $10.3 million if he rejected the option. As a result he could effectively collect the full $30.9 million of contract value for only two years of play ($15.45 million annually).[108][119] However, the Yankees valued this deal as a $10.3 million annually, three-year deal.[66] He became a free agent after the 2002 season and ultimately re-signed with the Yankees for a new, one-year contract in which they bought out the previous option.[62][120]

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