Who is the highest paid MLB player? Contracts in Major League Baseball, like every other professional sport, are rapidly increasing. A title that once belonged to Gerrit Cole is now owned by New York Mets ace Max Scherzer.
While pitchers don’t play everyday day, they are incredibly valuable. Pitching is crucial for success in October and when teams have a shot at an ace who can win multiple games in a World Series, they’re willing to pay whatever it takes to land them.
Keep in mind, many of these clubs aren’t hurting for money. MLB revenue rose in 2021, continuing a trend of record numbers outside of the COVID-impacted 2020 season. With some franchise values higher than ever thanks to a new MLB CBA and new sources of revenue, there is plenty of money for teams to spend.
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Let’s examine the highest paid MLB players entering the 2022 season. Numbers via Spotrac. Further below, we examine future contracts for Aaron Judge and Juan Soto, both who will compete to be the highest paid MLB player in 2023.
Highest paid MLB player: Max Scherzer, pitcher, New York Mets
- Max Scherzer contract: 3 years, $130 million
- Max Scherzer salary: $43.33 million
- Max Scherzer career earnings: $183 million
New York Mets owner Steve Cohen wanted to make a splash in free agency and he did. By signing Max Scherzer to a three-year deal worth $130 million, Scherzer became the highest paid player in MLB history. He is also the first player with an average annual contract value of $40-plus million. A three-time Cy Young Award winner, the 37-year-old’s contract includes a full no-trade clause and includes a player opt-out after 2023. He’ll receive a $100,000 bonus each year he is named to the All-Star Game.
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Highest paid position player in MLB: Mike Trout, outfielder, Los Angeles Angels
- Mike Trout contact: 12 years, $426.5 million
- Mike Trout salary: $37.116 million
- Mike Trout career earnings: $198 million
Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout hasn’t appeared in the MLB playoffs since 2014, his only postseason experience. While the franchise’s baseball moves always provide reasoning for him to leave, the three-time AL MVP and one of the best players in MLB history couldn’t pass on a historic contract. Signed to a 12-year deal worth $425 million signed one of the biggest contracts in sports history, Every single dollar of the $426.5 million is guaranteed and the deal extends doesn’t expire until 2031. Not bad for a player selected with the 25th pick in the 2009 MLB Draft.
Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon among highest MLB salaries
It should come as no surprise that the New York Yankees are responsible for shelling out one of the largest MLB contracts. Until New York signed Scherzer, All-Star pitcher Gerrit Cole was the highest-paid player in baseball.
Gerrit Cole, starting pitcher, New York Yankees
- Gerrit Cole contract: 9 years, $324 million
- Gerrit Cole salary: $36 million
- Gerrit Cole career earnings: $120.222 million
When the Yankees signed Cole to a nine-year deal worth $324 million in December 2019, it marked the biggest contract ever signed by a pitcher. Furthermore, Cole’s $36 million salary surpassed Trout’s AAV. An All-MLB First Team selection in 2019 and 2021, Cole’s deal includes a full no-trade clause and includes a player option after 2024.
If he exercises the opt-out – $144 million over four seasons – the Yankees can extend a counter-proposal to include a $36 million salary in 2029, Cole’s age-38 season, which would bring the total value of the contract to $360 million.
Anthony Rendon, third base, Washington Nationals
- Anthony Rendon contract: 7 years, $245 million
- Anthony Rendon salary: $36.571 million
- Anthony Rendon career earnings: $127.8 million
Coming off a World Series title and an All-MLB First Team selection with the Washington Nationals, Anthony Rendon hit the market at the perfect time. The Angels, responsible for paying two of the highest paid MLB players, struck a deal with the All-Star third baseman. Rendon’s contract extends through 2026, his age-36 season, and includes a no-trade clause. Since signing the contract, Rendon ranks 13th in FanGraphs WAR (3.3) and eighth in OPS (.808) among third basemen.
Highest paid MLB players in 2022
Here’s an extended look at the 10 highest paid MLB players this season.
Jacob deGrom, pitcher, New York Mets
- Jacob deGrom contract: 5 years, $137.5 million
- Jacob deGrom salary: $36 million
The Mets signed their ace at the perfect time, agreeing to a $137.5 million extension in 2019 before salaries for pitchers skyrocketed even further. A two-time Cy Young Award recipient, deGrom will exercise an opt-out after the 2022 MLB season. Assuming he stays healthy, deGrom will likely be the highest paid MLB player a year from now.
Trevor Bauer, pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Trevor Bauer contract: 3 years, $102 million
- Trevor Bauer salary: $35.33 million
Trevor Bauer is currently under MLB investigation for assault allegations, though he isn’t facing criminal charges. If Bauer is suspended by Major League Baseball, he will forfeit the prorated portion of his salary as long as he is sidelined.
Carlos Correa, shortstop, Minnesota Twins
- Carlos Correa contract: 3 years, $105.3 million
- Carlos Correa salary: $35.1 million
When MLB free agency began, no one expected the Minnesota Twins to sign Carlos Correa. Thanks to the lockout stalling the offseason and some teams wanting to avoid a hefty contract, Minnesota landed the All-Star shortstop. Correa’s deal includes an opt-out after the 2022 and ’23 seasons. It’s widely expected that he’ll look to test free agency in 2023.
Stephen Strasburg, pitcher, Washington Nationals
- Stephen Strasburg contract: 7 years, $245 million
- Stephen Strasburg salary: $35 million
After a dominant postseason run in 2019 capped off with World Series MVP honors, the Washington Nationals locked down their No. 1 pick in the 2009 MLB Draft with a massive contract. Sadly, neck and arm injuries have limited him to 26.2 innings over the last two years.
Nolan Arenado, third base, St. Louis Cardinals
- Nolan Arenado contract: $8 years, $260 million
- Nolan Arenado salary: $35 million
Acquired by the St. Louis Cardinals from the Colorado Rockies, Arenado’s eight-year contract includes a player opt-out after the 2022 season. He would still be owed an additional $144 million through 2027, making it likely he remains with the club beyond this year.
Francisco Lindor, shortstop, New York Mets
- Francisco Lindor contract: 10 years, $341 million
- Francisco Lindor salary: $34.1 million
Acquired from the Cleveland Guardians before the 2021 season, New York made Francisco Lindor the highest-paid infielder in MLB with a $341 million contract. The deal includes a 15-team NTC through 2025 and then becomes a full NTC from 2026-’31. Lindor will receive $5 million annually in deferred money from 2032-’41.
Corey Seager, shortstop, Texas Rangers
- Corey Seager contract: 10 years, $325 million
- Corey Seager salary: $33 million
The Texas Rangers wanted to make big moves during the 2021-’22 offseason and they did just that, making Seager one of the highest paid MLB players this year. He receives a $33 million salary in 2022 and will make $35.5 million in 2023. The annual salary will dip below $33 million after the 2024 season.
Who is the highest paid MLB player ever?
It should come as no surprise that Alex Rodriguez is atop the list for MLB career earnings. According to Spotrac, the baseball legend earned $455.159 million across his entire career. Incredibly, even after stepping away after the 2016 season, he still earned an additional $39 million from the Yankees and Rangers through 2020.
MLB leaders in career earnings
After signing a one-year, $2.5 million contract to finish his Hall of Fame career with the St. Louis Cardinals, Albert Pujols gains even more separation from Miguel Cabrera for the active record of the highest paid MLB player ever.
However, Cabrera will pass him in 2023 because he is still under contract for a $32 million salary in each of the next two seasons. By the end of his MLB career, Cabrera will have earned nearly $400 million in total salary.
- Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals: $339.21 million
- Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: $321 million
- Justin Verlander, Houston Astros: $274.588 million
- Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals: $252 million
- Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers: $251.34 million
Aaron Judge, Juan Soto contracts poised to break records
While MLB free agency is months away and everyone is focused on the current season, it’s impossible to not think about the loaded crop of talent available this winter. Jacob deGrom will likely opt-out of his contract, joining Aaron Judge, Trea Turner and so many others in a loaded pool of free agents.
Expect there to be a lot of spending. The New York Yankees might have come up short on their contract offer, but the free market changes things. Once other MLB teams start offering Judge $30-plus million annually, the Yankees might feel obligated to do whatever it takes for a deal to get done.
deGrom is another interesting case. If he returns in the second half of the 2022 season and stays healthy, the two-time Cy Young Award winner will explore free agency. Durability issues and age will limit the number of multi-year deals he receives. However, no one should be surprised if deGrom lands a contract that approaches or exceeds $40-plus million per year.
Then there is Juan Soto. The Washington Nationals attempted to make him one of the highest paid MLB players in baseball history. A 15-year deal worth $440 million would have technically made the All-Star outfielder one of the highest paid players in MLB. But the average annual salary proposed by Washington falls far short of the mark.
Represented by agent Scott Boras, Soto wanted to be the highest paid MLB player ever. That means surpassing the largest contract ever and eclipsing the biggest AAV. He doesn’t just want to be among the highest paid players in MLB, he wants to be No. 1. If the Nationals won’t offer it, another club will.
This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.