When someone says professional athlete, we immediately think of people who are in the upper percentiles of physical achievement. However, there are also those who do not comply with that definition. These exceptional individuals who find a way to perform at a high level, even though they find themselves hauling a bit of additional weight, are nonetheless paid according to their above average performances. And although there are heavy athletes in each sport, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of them in Major League Baseball. So here’s the list of the highest-paid players in MLB, who have also been known to indulge in an occasional Fenway Frank.
*Note: The list is based on the annual salaries of the players, not their weight or the total value of their contracts.
10 Bartolo Colon - $9 Million in 2013
We kick off the list with Bartolo Colon, a 5’11’’ 267 lbs. right-handed pitcher for the New York Mets. Since entering the league in 1997, Colon has bounced around the league and has played for a total of 6 different teams. Most recently, Colon played for the Oakland A’s, where he earned himself a reputation as a quality pitcher in the majors. With a career average of .395 and 1950 K’s, the New York Mets deemed him a good investment, and signed him to a two-year, $20 million dollar contract. Although Colon is in the home stretch of his career, he still has some gas in the tank left, which is what the Mets are hoping to get out of him.
9 Adam Dunn – $14 Million in 2013
The Chicago White Sox designated hitter is 6’6’’, and weighs in at 285 lbs. The former Washington National signed a four-year, $56 million deal with the White Sox in 2010, which will earn him an average of $14 million per year. After leaving the Cincinnati Reds, Dunn bounced around with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Washington Nationals, before landing with his current team. Over his career, he has earned himself a reputation as a dependable DH, with a career average of .238 and has batted in a total of 1104 runners. Dunn also had six 40+ home run seasons, his highest total coming in 2004 as he hit 46 dingers. Although he may not be the batter with the highest career slugging percentage (.495), the fact remains that Dunn has been a dependable asset throughout his career, and has earned his payday.
8 T7. David Ortiz - $15 Million in 2013
There was absolutely no way David Ortiz wouldn’t be on this list. There is a reason he is called Big Papi after all… But after the 2013 World Series, people in Boston might also start calling him the King of Clutch. Now although Papi’s presence on this list isn’t a surprise, his contract may surprise a few. The 6’4’’ 250 lb designated hitter for the Boston Red Sox signed a two-year, $30 million deal before the start of the 2013 season. And although he is set to earn $15 million in 2014, it is understandable that Ortiz would want a sizeable increase to his salary.
In the past three years, Big Papi has had no less than a .309 batting average, and batted in a total of 259 runners. But most importantly, Ortiz has been clutch beyond measure, especially in crunch time during the playoffs. There is also a reason why he was named World Series MVP in 2013… Whenever the Sox needed a big play, Big Papi always seemed to come through with a key home run, and in some cases, a walk-off homer. We can expect big things from David Ortiz in 2014, and we can also anticipate that he will be climbing up this list after his new contract.
7 T7. Yadier Molina - $15 Million in 2013
Yadier Molina also happens to have the same clutch calling card as Ortiz. Having batted in more than 500 runners in his career since entering the league in 2004, Molina has contributed greatly to the World Series winning teams in St. Louis. So much so, that the Cardinals signed him to a monster $75 million deal over five years, earning him $15 million per year. Molina rewarded his club’s faith by earning the 2013 National League Golden Glove Award at catcher. He isn’t, however, a pure slugger. The 5’11’’ 230lb catcher’s strength lays in the fact that he can get a clutch hit to bring in some runners. But Molina continues to be a reliable source of offense on a Cardinals team that lost Albert Pujols a few years back.
6 Adrian Gonzalez - $21 Million in 2013
Slated to earn $21 million until 2018, Adrian Gonzalez continues to be one of the better first basemen in major league baseball. The 6’2’’, 225 lb man showed us that he could also be clutch. He hit two dingers in the 2013 playoffs to push the Dodgers’ series with the St. Louis Cardinals to a game 6. He’s not the most dominant hitter on this list, but Gonzalez definitely doesn’t have reason to feel shy. He has a career batting average of .294, and has hit 235 home runs, on top of batting in a total of 850 runners since entering the league in 2004. Although many people say that Gonzalez’s best years are behind him, he still has a few good ones left in him, and should continue to earn his monster contract.
5 Miguel Cabrera - $22 Million in 2013
The 6’4’’ 240 lb first baseman from Venezuela is undoubtedly one of the most talented hitters in baseball today. The 2012 Triple Crown winner and AL MVP was signed to a $152 million contract by the Detroit Tigers in 2008 that would keep him in the Motor City into 2015. Since signing his contract in 2008, Cabrera has definitely earned his keep. He hit 227 home runs in those six seasons, and has never had a slugging percentage below .537. He also only had one season where his batting average dipped below .300 since joining the Tigers, and that came in 2008 where he hit .292. He may have cost them a pretty penny, but the Tigers will never complain that Miguel Cabrera hasn’t given them a good return on their investment. However, many critics say that he needs to win a World Series to cement his legacy as one of the best hitters in his era. His Tigers have always been in the hunt, but they need to break through soon.
4 CC Sabathia - $23 Million in 2013
The fourth player on the list happens to be the heaviest and the tallest. The 6’7’’ left-handed starting pitcher for the New York Yankees weighs in at a whopping 290 lbs. Talk about velocity on the pitch… The Yankees acquired Sabathia in 2009 after he had spent a year in Milwaukee. Before that, the biggest pitcher in baseball had played for the Cleveland Indians from 2001 to 2008. CC Sabathia has been a consistent pitcher throughout his career, averaging a 3.60 ERA. However, he has stumbled in the offseason. His career offseason ERA shoots up to 4.53, with his worst playoff performance coming in 2008 where he surrendered 12.27 earned runs in 3.2 innings pitched. Nonetheless, Sabathia finds himself amongst the highest-paid pitchers in the majors, and is still a force to be reckoned with once he steps on the mound.
3 Prince Fielder - $23.78 Million in 2013
We begin the top three with a mammoth contract for a mammoth of a man. Prince Fielder was signed to a 10-year contract worth $214 million back in 2012 after enjoying an extremely successful stint with the Milwaukee Brewers. During his time in Wisconsin, he enjoyed a 50 home run season, and only hit less than 30 dingers in a season twice. He was supposed to be the perfect complement to Miguel Cabrera, but he fell short of expectations. He hit 30 home runs in 2012, and only 25 in 2013. But when the postseason came along, Fielder found himself unable to answer the call. His averages fell from .313 and .279 in 2012 and 2013 respectively to .173 and .225 with only one home run in those two postseasons. After 2013, the Tigers had seen enough and thought it was time for a change. The Tigers traded Fielder to the Texas Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler and some money. Hopefully moving to Texas with less monetary pressure will allow Fielder to regain his previous hitting prowess. It goes without saying; there is talent in that 5’11’’, 275 lb frame.
2 Albert Pujols - $24 million in 2013
After winning multiple World Series titles and being hailed as the best hitter in baseball, 6’3’’, 230 lb Albert Pujols picked up and left the St. Louis Cardinals for the golden coast. He signed with the Los Angeles Angels in 2012 to a 10-year, $240 million contract that would give him an average of $24 million per year. Interestingly enough, all that money didn’t seem to be enough for Pujols. During the contract negotiations, he managed to obtain perks like four season tickets for the next ten years, a hotel suite on road trips and the right to buy a luxury suite between first and third base for all home games. Oh, and they also threw $240 million at him. But then again, he had earned it. During his time with the Cardinals, he had only hit below .300 once, and he had never hit fewer than 32 home runs. His playoff numbers were also impressive. He had a career playoff average of .330, with 18 home runs in 74 playoff games. But since signing with the Angels, Pujols’ numbers have dwindled. He had career lows in home runs and hitting average in his two season in Los Angeles, and has failed to lead his team to the playoffs. Hopefully 2014 will be a good one for Pujols. Well, I know the Angels are hoping that.
1 Ryan Howard - $25 Million in 2013
Ryan Howard is slated to earn $25 million in 2014. After earning $20 million during 2012 and 2013, Howard will earn an extra $5 million until his contract expires, which could be as late as 2017. Although his deal may not be as big in size as others ($125 million over five years), the fact remains that the 6’4’’ 240 lb slugger for Philadelphia will earn more money each year than any other husky player on this list. Unfortunately, Howard has followed the trend of players who do not live up to expectations after signing a mega deal. During his time in the city of brotherly love, Howard had produced video game-like numbers. From 2006 to 2009, he had hit 58, 47, 48 and 45 home runs respectively. During those years, he had collected a multitude of individual awards that include the 2006 Players Choice Outstanding Player of the Year Award, the 2006 Player’s Choice Player of the Year Award, and the 2009 N.L.C.S. Most Valuable Player Award, among many others. But his numbers have dipped since he signed his new deal, which is alarming for Phillies fans, especially with the heavy price tag he carries. But baseball is far from an exact science; it’s an art.