Only about 10% of the population is left handed. Though they are largely the minority, in face-to-face sports, lefties tend to hold the advantage over their opponent. If you consider that left-handed athletes have faced right-handed athletes more than vice versa, it provides reasoning as to why most athletes struggle against lefties. Hockey is the biggest exception to the rule, as there are far more left handed players than right handed players. For some reason, Canadians and European players are more prone to shoot left while Americans have a tendency to shoot right.
There are currently no starting quarterbacks in the National Football League with one possible exception being if Michael Vick beats out Geno Smith for the New York Jets’ starting position. However, baseball, like boxing, is a sport where lefties have a history of dominance. Baseball owners will often pay inflated prices to keep a decent southpaw in their bullpen while opposing managers must alter their batting line-up to cater to a lefty on the mound. While it’s no surprise to see the top three richest franchises account for 80% of our list, the Dodgers in particular seem to have a thing for expensive left-handed players. In order to make the cut, players must both bat and throw with their left hand.
With Mike Trout’s 6-year, $144.5 million contract extension with the Angels and Miguel Cabrera‘s 8-year, $248 million contract extension with the Detroit Tigers, Major League Baseball’s opening week talk is all about cash flow. Considering the top contract values around the league, these ten southpaws have cashed in on their unique ability to test even though the most seasoned right-handed players in the league. According to Spotrac, we’ve found the ten biggest active contracts being dished out to the most prize left-handed players in Major League Baseball.
11. Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers – 5-Year, $85,000,000
Ethier has been in Dodger blue since 2006 and the Arizona native has played in over 125 games every season since joining the big leagues. He signed a 5-year, $85 million contract with the Dodgers in 2012 and will pocket $15.5 million from that deal in 2014. Ethier played in 17 games through Spring Training putting up 1 home run, 6 RBIs with a .333 batting average. The 2011 Golden Glove Award winner played in two All-Star games with the Dodgers and will stay in Los Angeles through 2018 season.
10. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies – 5-Year, $120,000,000
Cliff Lee played six games during Philadelphia’s camp, pitching just over 24 innings giving up just one home run with a 2.55 ERA. This season marks Lee’s fourth season with the Phillies and he’ll bring in a hefty $25 million pitching in Philadelphia. With 10 years experience and a limited no trade clause in his 5-year contract, the former Indians’ pitcher won’t have to worry about free agency until 2017. With A.J. Burnett and Kyle Kendrick rounding out half of Philadelphia’s starting rotation, the Phillies look to start the regular season better than they finished Spring Training.
T8. Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels – 5-Year, $125,000,000
Former Rangers’ slugger, Josh Hamilton signed a 5-year $125 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels at the end of 2012. Although Hamilton’s home runs and RBIs were virtually cut in half from his last season in Texas to his first year in Los Angeles, the Angels’ outfielder finished Spring Training with a .333 batting average over 11 games. The five-time All-Star will make $17.4 million this season and his total annual salary will cap out at $32.4 million during the final two years of his contract. Hamilton has a full no trade clause in his current contract that will keep him in Los Angeles through the 2017 regular season.
T8. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies – 5-Year, $125,000,000
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, this southpaw made his Major League debut with the Philadelphia Phillies during the last few weeks of the 2004 regular season. This year, Ryan Howard appeared in 23 games in the Grapefruit League with 15 hits in 66 at bats, 3 home runs, 7 RBIs and a .227 batting average. Howard is coming off a disappointing 2013 season and will be hoping to get back to his old ways. In 2014, Howard is entering the third year of his 5-year $125 million contract and will pocket $25 million this season.
7. Shin-Soo Choo, Texas Rangers – 7-Year, $130,000,000
Shin-Soo Choo made his Major League debut with the Seattle Mariners in 2005. After spending 2 years going back and forth with the Mariners, Choo eventually found a home in Cleveland. After six full seasons with the Indians, the South Korean outfielder signed a 1-year, $7,375,000 contract with the Cincinnati Reds and had 21 home runs, 54 RBIs and a .285 batting average. He cashed in this year with the Randers and with Opening Week upon us, Shin-Soo Choo will make $14 million in his debut season with the Texas Rangers.
6. Carl Crawford, Los Angeles Dodgers – 7-Year, $142,000,000
This native Texan started working his way through Tampa Bay’s farm system after being drafted in 1999. In his 2002 Major League debut season, Crawford played in 63 games with 2 home runs, 30 RBIs and a .259 batting average. After 9 seasons with the Rays, Crawford signed a 7-year $142 million contract with the Boston Red Sox which eventually fell through due to team politics and injuries. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012, Crawford was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a nine-player trade. In 2014, Crawford is entering his fourth year with the Dodgers and he’s poised to make $21,107,142 this season.
5. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies – 6-Year, $144,000,000
Cole Hamels was drafted out of high school by the Phillies in 2002 and spent four years working his way through Philadelphia’s farm system. With a regular season career ERA of 3.38, Hamels signed a 6-year $144,000,000 contract in 2012 that will pay him $23,500,000 through the 2014 regular season. Entering his 9th season in the big leagues, the California native has pitched nearly 1600 innings in the regular season with a 1.14 WHIP. Hamels did not make an appearance during Spring Training but Philadelphia can only work on a four-man rotation for so long.
4. Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees – 7-Year, $153,000,000
Arguably the most politically controversial acquisition of the 2013 off season was Jacoby Ellsbury‘s move to New York. Not only did Ellsbury make his Major League debut at home with the Red Sox, he was a key player in Boston’s 2013 winning season that brought the World Series back to Fenway Park last year. Despite a string of injuries and minor league options, the Yankees appear confident in Ellsbury’s ability to adapt to pinstripes. The Oregon native is set to pocket $21,142,857 of his 7-year contract during his debut season at Yankee Stadium.
3. Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers – 7-Year, $154,000,000
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ first baseman is one of the highest paid players in the entire league. After being traded from the Boston Red Sox in 2012, Gonzalez seems much more at home in Los Angeles. Born in San Diego, California, last year, this southpaw had 22 home runs, 100 RBIs and a .293 batting average. Three years into his 7-year $154 million contract, Gonzalez is a a four-time All-Star and a three-time Rawlings Golden Glove Award winner. The veteran provides the Dodgers with a calm sense of confidence with 8 full Major League seasons on his resume.
2. CC Sabathia, New York Yankees – 8-Year, $186,000,000
Born in Vallejo, California, CC Sabathia started playing for the New York Yankees in 2009. This veteran has a regular season career ERA of 3.60 through 2775.1 innings pitched in 415 games. Last season, Sabathia started 32 games giving up a career-high 28 home runs with 1.37 WHIP. According to Forbes, this southpaw will stay with the Yankees through the 2016 season with a $25 million vesting option in 2017 so long as Sabathia stays off the DL list at the end of the last year of his contract. Along with Seattle Mariners’ second baseman, Robinson Cano, Sabathia is one of the latest professional athletes to sign with Jay-Z‘s Roc Nation Sports agency.
1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers – 7-Year, $215,000,000
Ironically, Clayton Kershaw is the highest paid lefty in Major League Baseball but has the lowest 2014 base salary of any player on our list. Pocketing a shy $4 million this season, Kershaw’s earnings will skyrocket to $30 million in 2015 until it caps out at $33 million in the final year of his contract. This Texas native entered Los Angeles’ farm system after the 2006 MLB Draft before making his debut with the Dodgers in 2008. With a regular season career ERA of 2.59 through 185 games and nearly 1200 innings pitched, Kershaw has already been considered one of the great pitchers of all-time.