Baseball is the highest-paying professional team sport in North America. As of the start of the 2013 season, all thirty Major League Baseball teams paid a combined total of $3.1 billion to their players. This is higher than both the $2 billion paid to NBA players and the $1.7 billion to NHL players.
Much of this spending is due to the fact that unlike many other professional sports leagues, Major League Baseball does not have a salary cap. Teams are allowed to spend as much money as they want to lure the best players to their teams. At the top end of the spectrum, the 2013 New York Yankees had an opening day payroll of $228.8 million and the Los Angeles Dodgers $216.6 million. Meanwhile, the league’s lowest spending Houston Astros only paid $22 million to their players while the Miami Marlins spent just $36.3 million.
Instead of a salary cap, a luxury tax is in place to discourage teams from spending too much on their players. Teams that spend $178 million or more are taxed on the amount of money that exceeds this limit. Therefore, teams like the Yankees and Dodgers could have to spend at least $20 million paying off their luxury taxes alone.
While it does discourage certain teams from overspending, the luxury tax doesn’t stop teams that can afford to pay their players high-value contracts. Many of these large contracts include deals that are not only worth massive amounts of money but are also good for several years at a time. Teams are willing to sign their players to long term contracts not only to ensure the future of their team but also to prevent star players from joining the competition. This is creates an environment in the MLB where a strong player on a weaker team can easily choose to leave for a wealthier team if he feels he is worth the money.
The following contracts are not only the highest in MLB history, but are also among the largest in the sports world. Many of them are still in effect today.
10. Buster Posey – San Francisco Giants – $167 Million Over 9 Years
In the early part of the 2013 season, the San Francisco Giants’ Buster Posey was awarded a nine-year contact worth $167 million. He will make $10.5 million in 2014 and then $21.4 million per year from 2017 to the end of the deal. As a former rookie of the year and World Series champion, Posey has become a notable catcher and important leader for the team. In fact, his new contract with the Giants makes for a significant change in his salary. He was only earning $8 million in 2013 and got just $615,000 a year before that. He will be earning close to three times the amount that he got in the past season near the tail end of his new contract.
9. Felix Hernandez – Seattle Mariners – $175 Million Over 7 Years
Felix Hernandez has a seven-year contract with the Seattle Mariners that expires at the end of the 2019 season. His contract is worth $175 million and will pay him $22.8 million in 2014 and $24.8 million in 2015. It’s estimated that he is earning more than $90,000 per strikeout, but King Felix’s lack of wins have hurt his stature. He only had twelve wins in 31 starts during the 2013 season.
8. Justin Verlander/Mark Teixeira – Detroit Tigers/New York Yankees – $180 Million Over 7/8 Years
Justin Verlander and Mark Teixeira both have contracts worth $180 from their respective teams. However, Teixeira’s contract is good for eight years and will go until 2016 while Verlander’s is for seven years and will run up until 2019. Texieria’s salary of $22.5 million per year is just the third-highest total for the Yankees. Verlander’s contract will pay him $28 million per year starting in 2015. This salary is compensation for his consistency on the mount as he started in at least thirty games in each full season that he’s played in.
7. Joe Mauer – Minnesota Twins – $184 Million Over 8 Years
Joe Mauer‘s contract of $184 million is part of an eight-year deal that goes until 2018. He will continue to earn money at his normal rate even though he will be switching from his traditional catcher position to first base in the coming future. Still, his career batting average is .323 and he will likely earn an average of $160,000 per hit with his $23 million annual salary.
6. Derek Jeter – New York Yankees – $189 Million Over 10 Years
When Derek Jeter signed a $189 million deal for ten years in 2001, it was the second-highest contract in the game at the time. He earned only $17 million in 2013, a decline from the $22.6 million he was earning during the latter part of his previous contract. His five World Series titles and 3,000-plus hits throughout his career have helped him to become a player noted for being worth the money while also being the face of the Yankees for the past few years.
5. Prince Fielder – Detroit Tigers – $214 Million Over 9 Years
Prince Fielder is the son of former baseball star Cecil Fielder but he has made a name for himself in recent years first with the Milwaukee Brewers and more recently the Detroit Tigers. While he earned $15.5 million for a one-year deal with the Brewers in 2011, he left after that to sign a nine-year deal with the Tigers that will go on until 2020. He will get $24 million a year in this deal, equating to around $920,000 per home run and $132,000 per hit, based on his career averages.
4. Joey Votto – Cincinnati Reds – $225 Million Over 10 Years
Starting in 2014, Joey Votto will be playing with a ten-year deal for the Cincinnati Reds under his belt. The Toronto native only earned $550,000 in 2010 and $5.5 million the next year, but his contact hitting skills and career batting average of .314 have gotten him a mega-deal with the Reds. Iterestingly, Votto earned around $96,000 per hit in 2013, making him a bargain when compared to some other figures on the list.
3. Albert Pujols – Los Angeles Angels – $240 Million Over 10 Years
Albert Pujols was already earning a large amount of money when he won two World Series titles and three MVP awards with the St. Louis Cardinals. He earned $16 million in each of his final two years with the Cards. He then went to the West Coast in 2012 and signed a ten-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for a modest $240 million. The contract started with a $12 million salary that year and has expanded to $23 million in 2014. He will be paid $30 million during his final year under this deal. Still, he will not be the highest-paid player on the Angels roster, as Josh Hamilton will be earning $32 million in 2016 and 2017.
2. Alex Rodriguez – Texas Rangers/New York Yankees – $252 Million Over 10 Years
When Alex Rodriguez came to the Seattle Mariners in 1994, he earned $440,000, a total that’s worth around $700,000 today. In 2001, A-Rod left the Mariners and hit the jackpot with the Texas Rangers, landing a ten-year deal worth $252 million. This made him the highest-paid player in the MLB at the time. The contract carried over in 2004 when the Rangers traded him to the Yankees. However, he opted out of the contract in 2007, stating that he was uncertain about the future of the team.
1. Alex Rodriguez – New York Yankees – $275 Million Over 10 Years
Scared by the prospect of Rodriguez leaving the team, the Yankees decided to dig even deeper into their pocketbooks to ensure his return for the next season. In 2008 A-Rod signed a ten-year deal with the team, worth $275 million. He earned $31 million in 2011 and that number has gone down in accordance to the standards in his deal. He will earn $20 million in the 2016 season and the one after that. However, it is uncertain what will happen to his current salary as he could end up being suspended for an extended period of time for his alleged use of performance enhancing drugs.
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