Five years ago, there were only four players in Major League Baseball pocketing $20 million a year in salary. What was predominantly considered a Yankees' high-rollers club is slowly becoming the starting point for contract negotiations for the elite. According to Forbes, there are 22 players from 11 different clubs that will earn at least $20 million in 2014. The list of highest paid baseball players this season is determined in terms of cash received from salary and endorsements.
But baseball isn't the only sport where nine-figure salaries are becoming the norm for today's best athletes. NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers recently signed a five-year, $110 million contract with the Green Bay Packers while Baltimore Ravens' quarterback Joe Flacco signed a six-year, $120.6 million contract shortly after. Even though Rodgers and Flacco are the highest paid players in the National Football League, in baseball, they would only have a chance to make the top 10 highest paid list off extra endorsement cash.
Now that Spring Training is over, owners and managers are facing the 11th hour of any remaining contract negotiations before the focus shifts to the 2014 regular season. With talks of arbitration and contract disputes in full swing, these 10 players can open the season comfortably knowing their money is accounted for. Unfortunately, for players like Detroit's Max Scherzer and Boston's Jon Lester, talks of negotiation will have to be tabled for the time being. Now that Opening Week is here, let's take a look at Forbes' list of the top 10 highest paid players of the 2014 Major League Baseball season.
10 CC Sabathia, New York Yankees - $23.4 million
Former AL Cy Young Award winner, CC Sabathia will pocket $23.4 million this season pitching for the New York Yankees. Sabathia cashes in on a $23 million salary with an additional $400,000 from endorsements. Currently tied with Giants' starting pitcher, Tim Hudson, for most careers wins among active pitchers, Sabathia is hoping to continue his dominant Spring Training performance through the regular season. The California southpaw is expected to be the Yankees' opening day starter against the Houston Astros. With the Yankees facing a difficult defensive transition while Jeter begins his farewell tour and A-Rod serves out his suspension, Sabathia will focus on redemption for his disappointing 2013 season.
9 Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees - $23.5 million
In one of the biggest off-season moves, the Yankees signed Japanese superstar, Masahiro Tanaka, to a lucrative 7-year, $155 million contract. The Yankees' acquisition marks the biggest contract offered to player with no Major League experience. While he's performed to his hype during Spring Training, Tanaka still has a lot to prove in his first year as a starting pitcher in the big leagues. His highly anticipated debut is expected to come during the Toronto Blue Jays' home opener series. With $22 million coming in from his salary, Tanaka will also pocket $1.5 million from endorsements in 2014.
8 Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers - $24 million
Miguel Cabrera has changed Major League Baseball forever. The Tigers' first baseman has signed a $248 million contract extension that will keep him in Detroit through the 2023 season. Cabrera had $44 million and two years left on his current contract when Detroit offered the sensational 8-year extension set to begin after the 2015 season. For now, the Venezuelan superstar will pocket $22 million from his salary with an additional $2 million cashed in from endorsements. It's quite a generous pay raise for switching from 3rd base to 1st base.
7 Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers - $24.05 million
Back in 2012, Zack Greinke's 6-year, $147 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers was the biggest contract dished out to a right-handed pitcher. In 2014, this 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner will make $24 million off his salary with a bonus $50,000 from endorsements. While the Dodgers' salary cap is well over $200 million, teammates such as Kershaw, Kemp, Gonzalez and Crawford take up a huge chunk of LA's budget. Now that the Dodgers have knocked the reigning Yankees into 2nd place on the high-rollers list, it's no surprise to see the Blue Crew make an appearance on ours.
6 Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers - $24.4 million
Former 1st baseman for the Detroit Tigers, Prince Fielder was traded to the Texas Rangers for 2nd baseman, Ian Kinsler. Making the move from the AL Central to the AL West could prove to be a difficult transition with new division rivals also having made blockbuster trades prior to the 2014 season. Although Fielder struggled during the 2013 season, his new home, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, is considered by many as one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league.With Yu Darvish, Adrian Beltre and former Cincinnati Reds' outfielder, Shin-Soo Choo, Fielder will bump the Lone Stars into serious contention to lead the AL West.
5 Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners - $24.5 million
Prior to Detroit's mega contract extension with Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano's trade to the Seattle Mariners was the talk of Major League Baseball. Cano made his debut with the New York Yankees back in 2005, but he moved away during the off season on a 10-year, $240 million free agent deal. The two-time Golden Glove Award winner clinched a World Series in pinstripes but will pocket $24 million from with the Mariners thus tear and $500,000 coming in from endorsements. Despite leaving one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league, Cano is currently batting .412 in Spring Training and will be dangerous at bat in Safeco Field.
4 Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels - $24.8 million
Former veteran St. Louis Cardinal, Albert Pujols struggled during a disappointing 2013 season with Los Angeles Angels. The Dominican Republic native only appeared in 99 games last season with a career low .258 batting average. However, the Angels' 1st baseman reported to Spring Training in great shape and is determined to avoid becoming just a designed hitter. With 8 years left on his contract, Pujols will make $23 million in salary with nearly $2 million coming in from endorsements.
3 Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins - $25 million
Joe Mauer was born in Minnesota, made his professional debut in Minnesota and has won three Golden Glove Awards in Minnesota. The six-time All-Star veteran had a solid 2013 season with 11 home runs, 47 RBIs and a .324 batting average. With an all-time career batting average of .323, it comes as no surprise that Mauer is making $23 million during the 2014 season. The Minnesota Twins' first baseman actually has one of lower salary bases on the list but cushions his earnings with $2 million in endorsements from big names like Nike and Rawlings. After sustaining a season-ending concussion near the end of the 2013 regular season, Mauer decided to leave his catcher's mitt behind and join the infield.
2 Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies - $25.2 million
When Cliff Lee signed with the Philadelphia Phillies back in 2010, Major League Baseball was shook up. Having turned down a generous deal from the Yankees, Lee opted instead to join the Phillies' dangerous rotation which included Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton to kick off the 2011 season. While the veteran southpaw spent the early years of his career moving through farm systems, Lee has also played for the Cleveland Indians and the Seattle Mariners since his debut in 2002. Four years into his 5-year contract, Lee is slated to make $25 million off his salary with the extra $200,000 coming in from endorsements.
1 Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies - $25.7 million
Ryan Howard was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2001 MLB Draft and has been a franchise cornerstone since his debut in 2004. Entering the third year of his five-year, $125 million contract, Howard will pocket $25 million from his salary with $700,000 coming in from endorsements. The southpaw first baseman has missed a significant amount of time over the last two seasons due to leg complications and will be looking to perform for the Phillies all the way through September. With the third highest payroll in Major League Baseball, it's no wonder Philadelphia has the two highest paid players on their roster in 2014.