Highest paid MLB players in 2023: Rafael Devers sets benchmark at third base

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 aces Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer with Aaron Judge a close second.

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.

Related: Highest paid NFL players

Let’s examine the highest paid MLB players in 2023 with numbers via Spotrac. Further below, we examine future contracts for Juan Soto and Shohei Ohtani, who will become two of the highest paid MLB players ever by 2024.

Highest paid MLB player: Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander

MLB: Spring Training-New York Mets at Miami Marlins
Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
  • 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.

A year after making Scherzer one of the highest paid MLB players ever, Justin Verlander became one of the highest paid MLB players in 2023 with his new contract from the Mets.

Justin Verlander contract details

MLB: World Series-Philadelphia Phillies at Houston Astros
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
  • Justin Verlander salary: $43.333 million AAV
  • Justin Verlander contract: 2 years, $86.6 million
    • 2025: $35 million vesting option

Related: MLB free agency tracker

After winning the 2022 AL Cy Young Award, Verlander weighed offers from the Mets, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros. Ultimately, the future Hall of Famer lands with the Mets’ rotation. Every dollar in the first two years of his deal is guaranteed, so the Mets will be paying their top two pitchers a combined $86.666 million in 2023.

Highest paid position player in MLB 2023: Aaron Judge, outfielder, New York Yankees

MLB: Houston Astros at New York Yankees
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  • Aaron Judge contract: 9 years, $360 million
  • Aaron Judge salary: $40 million AAV

Aaron Judge is the highest paid position player in MLB history. Judge signed a nine-year, $360 million contract with the New York Yankees, making baseball history in a variety of ways.

Judge becomes the first position player 30 years old or older to sign a $300 million contract and the first 30-plus years old to sign a deal with a contract length of nine years. Judge also becomes one of the highest paid MLB players ever, with a $40 million salary that ranks just behind Scherzer and Verlander.

The nine-year contract means Judge will make $40 million per season through age-39, allowing him to end his career with the Yankees. It’s also a massive change from what the Yankees had originally offered. New York first offered Judge $213.5 million over seven years in their proposal before Opening Day. Early in free agency, the Yankees offered $300 million over eight years. Now, Judge is one of the highest paid players in MLB both in contract length, total salary and AAV.

Anthony Rendon, third baseman, Los Angeles Angels

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics
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  • Anthony Rendon contract: 7 years, $245 million
  • Anthony Rendon salary 2023: $38.571 million
  • Anthony Rendon career earnings: $127.244 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.

Rendon is the second highest-paid hitter in MLB right now, earning slightly more than teammate Mike Trout. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, Rendon only played in 47 games last season and has played in a combined 157 games since he signed with the Angels.

Mike Trout, outfielder, Los Angeles Angels

MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Angels-Workouts
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  • 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, Trea Turner among highest paid players in MLB

MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays
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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.

Rafael Devers, third base, Boston Red Sox

Rafael Devers contract
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  • Rafael Devers contract: 11 years, $332 million
  • Rafael Devers salary: $30.18 million

Boston finally did it. The team locked up one of its young stars after losing the likes of Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts over the past few seasons. Devers was slated to hit free agency following the 2023 season. After agreeing to avoid arbitration, he inked the largest contract in franchise history and is now the highest-paid third baseman in MLB history. Good for him.

Trea Turner, shortstop, Philadelphia Phillies

MLB: NLDS-Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
  • Trea Turner contract: 11 years, $300 million
  • Trea Turner salary: $27.272 million

While Trea Turner isn’t one of the highest paid players in MLB in terms of salary, he signed one of the largest contracts in MLB history. The All-star shortstop became just the 10th player to sign a $300 million contract, a list that includes one of his teammates. Similar to the Bryce Harper contract ($330 million), the Philadelphia Phillies added years to Turner’s deal to lower the base salary.

Carlos Correa, third base, New York Mets

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
  • Carlos Correa contract: 12 years, $315 million
  • Carlos Correa salary: $26.25 million

Carlos Correa initially became one of the highest paid players in MLB for the 2023 season when he inked a 13-year, $350 million deal with the San Francisco Giants for an average annual salary of $26.92 million.

That deal fell through immdiately ahead of the press conference to make it official when Correa failed his physical. There was a difference of opinion between the Giants’ front office and Correa’s camp, led by Scott Boras.

Correa then turned around and inked a 12-year, $315 million deal with the free-spending Mets. The All-Star will play third base next to Francisco Lindor, creating a left side of the lineup worth a total of $656 million. That’s absolutely insane.

As we’ve seen throughout baseball this offseason, teams are circumventing the luxury tax and lowering the average salaries for MLB players through longer deals. By signing Correa for 12 years, through his age-40 season, New York lowers his salary significantly. But the commitment is long-term.

Carlos Rodon, starting pitcher, New York Yankees

highest paid mlb players: carlos rodon
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
  • Carolos Rodon contract: 6 years, $162 million
  • Carlos Rodon salary: $27 million

Rodon, 30, landed with the New York Yankees in free agency as the third-best starting pitcher available behind Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom. He now joins a rotation headed by Gerrit Cole with the Yankees paying out a combined $846 million to those two and Aaron Judge. Over the course of the past two seasons, Rodon has pitched to a 27-13 record with a 2.67 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.

10 highest paid players in MLB 2023

  1. Max Scherzer, New York Mets – $43.333 million
  2. Justin Verlander, New York Mets – $43.333 million
  3. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees – $40 million
  4. Anthony Rendon, Los Angeles Angels – $38.571 million
  5. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels – $37.116 million
  6. Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees – $36 million
  7. Corey Seager, Texas Rangers – $35.5 million
  8. Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals – $35 million
  9. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals – $35 million
  10. Francisco Lindor, New York Mets – $34.1 million

Highest paid MLB players in 2022

MLB: Spring Training-Houston Astros at New York Mets
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Dodgers, check out our rumors, rankings, and news here.

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.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Mets, check out #LGM rumors, rankings, and news here.

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.

Highest paid closer in baseball

MLB: Wild Card-San Diego Padres at New York Mets
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Edwin Díaz is the highest-paid closer in MLB history, signed to a five-year contract worth $102 million. Diaz will make $20.4 million per year. He also signed the largest contract ever for a closer, becoming the first reliever to receive a $100 million contract.

Highest paid closers

  1. Edwin Diaz, New York Mets – $20.4M AAV, $102 million total
  2. Liam Hendriks, Chicago White Sox – $18M AAV, $54 million total
  3. Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros – $15M AAV, $30 million total

Who is the highest paid MLB player ever?

NFL: Super Bowl LIV-San Francisco 49ers vs Kansas City Chiefs
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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

Julio Rodriguez contract, potential earnings among highest paid MLB players

The Seattle Mariners signed rookie outfielder Julio Rodriguez to what might become one of the most unique contracts in MLB history. On the surface, it’s an eight-year deal worth $120 million and guarantees him $210 million. If it reaches maximum value, the $470 million figure will make Rodriguez one of the highest paid MLB players ever.

According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, the new contract pays out $120 million through the 2029 season. After that, Seattle holds a club option with an undetermined salary that will be based on his performance in AL MVP voting each year.

The club option can either be for eight years or 10 years on top of the base value of the contract with the figures on a range determined on yearly MVP results. If Rodriguez doesn’t live up to his potential, it can be as low as the $200 million range. However, the All-Star outfielder becoming a perennial MVP candidate would push it toward $350 million and he would be guaranteed $320 million total if the option is exercised.

If Seattle fails to exercise the option after 2027, Rodriguez holds a player option after the eighth season for a five-year and $90 million add-on. If he takes that route, it will put into effect the 13-year, $210 million deal that was first reported.

Rodriguez won’t be one of the highest paid players in MLB in 2023 or 2024. However, the maximum value of the contract will allow him to become one of the highest paid MLB players ever if he lives up to his potential.

Shohei Ohtani contract and 2023 salary

The Los Angeles Angels made history with the Shohei Ohtani contract. Before he came arbitration-eligible for the final time, Los Angeles signed their two-way sensation to the largest arbitration contract ever and the largest year-to-year salary increase in MLB history. After making $5.5 million in 2022, Ohtani will receive $30 million fully guaranteed during the 2023 MLB season.

It will be the final season of his contract before he becomes the No. 1 MLB free agent in 2024. Once he hits the open market, expect Ohtani to become the highest paid MLB player ever. At a minimum, he will likely pull in an AAV of $50 million per season. He is one of the best pitchers in baseball and a threat to hit 35-plus home runs with a .900-plus OPS. Combine that with his marketability and there will be multiple teams willing to offer a multi-year contract worth at least $50 million per season.

Shohei Ohtani, Juan Soto will become highest paid MLB players in years ahead

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics
D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of stars set to join the ranks of the highest paid MLB players in the coming years, look no further than Shohei Ohtani. The two-way phenom will be the top MLB free agent in 2024 and is expected to receive offers worth at least $50 million per season, giving him the chance to sign the first $500 million contract.

As for Juan Soto, joining a playoff contender like the San Diego Padres probably isn’t enough to keep him out of MLB free agency in 2025. He’ll only be 26 years old and his production through his first four seasons puts him in historic company. Barring a career-altering injury or unexpected regression, Soto will sign the first $500 million contract to become one of the highest paid players in MLB.

This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.

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