Those of you living in the United States who are parents to youngsters who are perceived to be talented athletes would be wise to push those children toward baseball. Until Major League Baseball installs some sort of hard salary cap system for rosters assuming that day will ever actually come, even average professional baseball players are paid millions upon millions of dollars per year because of the sport’s current market. Those who are the best of the best at their positions make tens of millions of dollars guaranteed to them on a yearly basis, types of fortunes not seen in the National Hockey League or the National Football League.
Starting pitchers are seen as the quarterbacks of their MLB squads, and thus it should come as no surprise to even casual fans that four pitchers top the list of the highest paid players in the league for 2015. One of those men is in the twilight of his career due to the wear and tear that his body has gone through during a lengthy and prosperous career, and there are some out there who believe that he should hang up his glove for good. Another is a proven winner who has, in the past, made headlines for some controversial pictures that involved the player and his famous supermodel girlfriend. Whoops.
Two pitchers are tied at the mountaintop of baseball salaries for 2015. One has been to the summit of his profession in that he has twice been a World Series champion while with one of the more beloved teams in North American pro sports. The other is an individual who is widely perceived to be the best starting pitcher on the planet today, one who has also had some disappointing results to games during the month of October. His team is once again expected to be a postseason contender that could win it all once the fall arrives, and thus he will have additional opportunities to win multiple playoff games.
Values from Spotrac
20. Jacoby Ellsbury – New York Yankees: $21,142,857
Are the New York Yankees overpaying for the outfielder who once featured for rivals the Boston Red Sox? Of course they are, but the most popular and most hated team in Major League Baseball has the funds to do just that. Ellsbury‘s best season to date came in 2011, and he has never again come close to flirting with posting such offensive statistics. Here is a fact that may surprise some of you out there: Ellsbury is, as it pertains to total cash included in the baseball contracts of the two players, set to make more money than is teammate Alex Rodriguez.
19. Jose Reyes – Toronto Blue Jays: $22 million
One of the worst kept secrets that swirled about the baseball world throughout this past winter was that the Toronto Blue Jays were interested in selling the former New York Mets superstar shortstop to the highest bidder. There was just one problem: No such bids arose. Toronto will now be banking on Reyes turning the clock back, relocating the juice in his electric legs and being able to stay healthy for at least six straight months. Some have speculated that Reyes is not as content up north as he was when he was in the starting lineup for the Amazins. It should be easy for him to smile whenever he examines his bank account.
18. Masahiro Tanaka – New York Yankees: $22 million
Tanaka made his Major League Baseball debut for the New York Yankees in 2014, and some would say that he was somewhat of a disappointment considering the amount of money that he is being paid and also all of the hype that surrounded his arrival from overseas. Tanaka won 13 of 20 starts for the Yanks, and he posted an ERA of 2.77 and an impressive WHIP of 1.06. The 26-year-old is on the verge of kicking off his first full season in the Big Leagues, and the Yankees have announced that Tanaka will be the team’s Opening Day starter and, in theory, the ace pitcher for the club.
17. Miguel Cabrera – Detroit Tigers: $22 million
The first baseman who goes by the nickname “Miggy” is one reason why the Detroit Tigers have been the most consistent team in the American League Central division over the past several years. 2014 was somewhat of a down season for the slugger, as it was the first time he failed to post at least 30 regular season home runs since 2006. With that said, Cabrera did finish the campaign with 109 RBI, a batting average of .313 and an .OPS of .895. Cabrera has been one of the best offensive weapons of his generation, and the 31-year-old should still have plenty left in the tank.
16. Hanley Ramirez – Boston Red Sox: $22 million
The Boston Red Sox have perfected the art of building teams capable of making multiple World Series runs, tearing those rosters apart to save money and to acquire younger talent, and then rebuilding in a short amount of time and once again emerging as the best team in the American League East. Ramirez represents just one piece of what those running the Red Sox will hope to be the conclusion of the latest rebuilding process. Ramirez was one of the top gets of this past offseason, and the shortstop who has become an outfielder has reportedly relocated his smile upon putting pen to paper on his latest contract.
15. Cole Hamels – Philadelphia Phillies: $22.5 million
Hamels is just one name currently associated with the Philadelphia Phillies who could find himself playing elsewhere by the time August 1 rolls around. It is bad times over at the Phillies, and the club is actively looking to dump players with high salaries and pick up who Philadelphia hope will be future stars via such trades. Hamels is just one name on the list of players being shopped by the club, and several teams are being linked with the starter. The favorites to get Hamels may be the Boston Red Sox, although the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees could also be in the running.
14. Mark Teixeira – New York Yankees: $22.5 million
Opinions on whether or not Teixeira‘s contract is more of a burden on the New York Yankees than it is a positive for the club vary per blogger and analyst. Even scouts have gone back-and-forth on whether or not the slugger is actually worth the large amounts of money the Yankees have invested in him. What cannot be debated is the fact that Teixeira has dealt with a laundry list of injury woes over the years, and critics would claim that he is “made of glass.” Teixeira stated during Spring Training that he was in the “best shape of his life.” That was before he suffered a knee knock during an exhibition game.
13. Zack Greinke – Los Angeles Dodgers: $23 million
Say whatever you will about the personality of the starting pitcher of the Los Angeles Dodgers who goes by the beat of his own drum. Greinke is a smart businessman who has made a fortune and also done so while playing for a good franchise. He could, depending on how he performs throughout the 2015 regular season, be on the verge of making even more money in the near future. Greinke can opt out of his current contract next offseason, and doing so would likely lead to him netting an even larger yearly salary than what the Dodgers are currently paying him. Good work if you can get it.
12. C.C. Sabathia – New York Yankees: $23 million
Sabathia went the opposite route this past winter than what you will see from most offseason training regimes, opting to put weight on rather than take it off. He and the New York Yankees are hoping that the additional pounds will help Sabathia remain healthy for the majority of the 2015 regular season. The 34-year-old who joined the Yankees back in 2009 and helped the club win a World Series that season will be looking to turn the clock back to the days of his physical prime when he was the best starting pitcher in all of the American League.
11. Josh Hamilton – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: $23 million
Hamilton has had all of the talent necessary to be one of the brightest stars in all of Major League Baseball, but his inability to conquer his personal demons has made him somewhat of a tragic figure in North American pro sports. Hamilton and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are awaiting word of whatever punishment the player is going to receive following yet another drug and alcohol relapse. Not for nothing, but perhaps it is unwise and downright dangerous to strip away something that could provide structure and support to a man who could use the help.
10. Joe Mauer – Minnesota Twins: $23 million
It does not seem like it was years ago when Mauer was perceived to be a cornerstone to a Minnesota Twins roster that had the goods to be the best team in the American League Central and one capable of winning the World Series at least once. That title run never occurred, the Twins have become one of the more forgettable sides in its own division, and Mauer is now serving the role as the scapegoat on a team that likely is not doing much of merit in 2015. Mauer may not deserve all of the criticisms he has received, but he could always theoretically dry his tears with all of the money the Twins have paid him.
9. Prince Fielder – Texas Rangers: $24 million
Is the slugger and big man worth the large salary the Texas Rangers will be paying him? Probably not, no, but Texas will be facing much bigger problems starting off in early April. The Rangers have holes throughout the roster, most notably in the team’s rotation. It is for that reason that the Rangers are being linked with the previously mentioned Cole Hamels, although there are some who have speculated that Texas would not be able to finalize that deal for several reasons. The club is going to need Fielder to find the form that he enjoyed while with the Milwaukee Brewers to make his contract worth it.
8. Felix Hernandez – Seattle Mariners: $24 million
Your life is hanging on the outcome of a baseball game, and you have to pick one American League starter to take the mound in the first inning of that contest. Would you select anybody other than King Felix? Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians unexpectedly had a banner season in 2014, but it is the Seattle Mariners starting pitcher who has proven his greatness time and time again. Hernandez could actually be a steal for the Mariners when you compare his contract to those possessed by the highest-paid pitchers in the league. He will turn 29 years old in April, and thus don’t expect Hernandez to slow down anytime soon.
7. Robinson Cano – Seattle Mariners: $24 million
One thing that casual observers who are not diehard fan of the Seattle Mariners may not know is that Cano is worth more to Seattle than what he provides the club on the field. The All-Star second baseman who made his name while with the New York Yankees has been credited for the Mariners experiencing a rise in attendance for home games and also local television ratings spikes for regular season contests. The club enjoyed record cable TV profits in part because of Cano’s successes, and Mike Ozanian of Forbes has claimed that the team’s television deal essentially paid for the first year of Cano’s contract.
6. Albert Pujols – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: $24 million
Here is what you have to remember about Pujols before you have any reaction to his contract: He is being paid largely because of the numbers that he posted in the past and not for what he is going to contribute for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2015. Those deals go down in every top-tier pro sport on the continent. Pujols has, when speaking with reporters during the spring, claimed that he is feeling more so like his old self, and the 35-year-old is, to his credit, swinging the bat well in preseason play. Whether or not he can keep up that when the games begin to count shall be seen.
5. Ryan Howard – Philadelphia Phillies: $25 million
Howard is one of three players featured in this piece who is just about guaranteed to make an exit from the Philadelphia Phillies before July comes to an end. The Phillies have been shopping the slugger since 2014, and Howard seems likely to link up with an American League team so that he can perform as a designated hitter. Philadelphia is so keen on trading Howard as quickly as possible, in fact, that the club is willing to give him away. Hey Cleveland Indians: I hear you could use one more bat to bolster your lineup. I have just the right player in mind for you.
4. Cliff Lee – Philadelphia Phillies: $25 million
Lee is in the midst of a battle against time, and he is going to suffer the fate that is eventually suffered by every pro athlete: He is going to lose to age. The 36-year-old who is in the twilight of his career and who won the Cy Young Award while with the Cleveland Indians has been unable to avoid the injury bug on multiple occasions, and he is going to start the regular season on the disabled list due to soreness in his elbow. The Philadelphia Phillies have been unable to find a buyer for Lee, and there is speculation that he may never again pitch for the club.
3. Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers: $28 million
The ace of the Detroit Tigers can be downright dominant and overpowering when he is healthy and at his best, but Verlander has been more human than machine over the past couple of seasons. He suffered 12 regular season defeats in both 2013 and in 2014, and he averaged just 14 wins over that same period of time. Verlander has had somewhat of a difficult spring, during which he has struggled with lingering soreness in his triceps. His velocity has decreased over the years, and Verlander did physically wear down at the end of the 2014 season that saw him finish with an alarming 4.54 ERA.
2. Jon Lester – Chicago Cubs: $30 million
The Boston Red Sox had executed what was, on paper, the perfect trade in 2014 when the club dealt Jon Lester to the Oakland Athletics in the middle of the season. It was widely believed that Lester would rejoin the Red Sox after his contract expired at the end of the season, meaning that the Red Sox had basically traded Jonny Gomes for two good players. Nobody factored in the Chicago Cubs during those discussions, however, and the Cubs made Lester a very rich man upon stealing him away from Boston. Chicago is now being advertised as one of the best overall teams in all of the National League.
1. Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers: $30 million
Kershaw as an absolute bargain for the Los Angeles Dodgers at $4 million in 2014. It seems unlikely he will ever make anything close to that amount of money per season as a professional athlete. Kershaw will make as high as $33 million in three seasons per the terms of his current deal, and he will also have the right to opt out of that contract after 2018. Why on earth would he even consider doing so when the Dodgers will owe him $32 million in 2019? It is possible, depending on the state of the game and the salaries of other top pitchers, that Kershaw could make himself even more money four years down the road. Raise your kids to be good pitchers, everybody.
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