Money Sports

The 21 Highest-Paid Baseball Players of 2022 (And All-Time)

We are slowly creeping our way to the start of Summer, which means…baseball is back! Now, this isn’t your standard ‘predictions’ article where we go into power rankings and potential playoff standings—we are looking at the highest-paid baseball players heading into the 2021 season and revisiting the top ten highest-paid players of all-time. 

Now in a world where we see NBA players securing absolutely massive contracts, we tend to forget that MLB players are ‘silent killers’ as well. Professional baseball players have proven over time that they can land some of the biggest contracts in sports history. For example, All-Star pitcher Max Scherzer recently inked a three-year deal worth $120 million with the New York Mets making him the top earner for both the 2022, 20223 and 2024 seasons, and Alex Rodriguez remains the highest-paid baseball player ever with $450 million in earnings.

While the NBA and NFL have salary caps limit how much a player can be paid, MLB contracts have no formal restrictions. Theoretically, players can make as much money as their teams are willing to pay them, although teams in recent years have become more austere and reluctant to pay the luxury tax. To wit, baseball players can remain productive deep into their 30s; Baseball players aren’t getting banged and bruised up as much as their counterparts, making the injury rates relatively low. As such, an MLB career can last up to twenty years, especially for sluggers who can now take advantage of the newly-installed universal DH rule.

Nerdy sports facts aside, baseball players can land some monumental deals. Here is a list of the highest-paid baseball players who are active today, as well as the highest-paid baseball players in the history of the league.

Let’s start with the present. 

1. Max Scherzer, New York Mets
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Contract: 3 Years (2022-2024), $130 Million ($43.33 Million, Annual Average Value)  

Arguably the best pitcher of his generation, the 37 year-old Scherzer will collect $43 million this season, the largest annual salary in MLB history. Despite being in his supposed twilight,, Scherzer inked a massive deal with the Mets last winter that should carry him through the rest of his career. Last year, Scherzer finished third in Cy Young voting, going 15-4 with a 2.46 earned run average and 236 strikeouts in 174 innings for the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. In the playoffs, Scherzer heroically notched the first save of his career, shutting the door on the San Francisco Giants in game five of the NLDS. So far this year, Scherzer has rewarded the Mets with an excellent start to the season—through seven starts, he has a 2.66 ERA and struck out 44 batters.

2. Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees
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Contract: 9 Years (2020-2028), $324 Million ($36 Million, AAV)

Gerrit Cole has been painted as the poster-boy of baseball’s sticky stuff crackdown, but he’s proven himself to be an elite pitcher, with or without spider tack. To be sure, Cole isn’t quite the unhittable mega-ace that he was in Houston, but he’s still the undisputed anchor of the Yankees’ league-best pitching staff. In his first seven starts of the year, Cole went 3-0 with a 2.95 ERA, which would put him on pace for a top-five CY Young finish for the fifth straight year. Through the fist three years of the record-setting $324 million contract he signed in 2019, Cole has been a solid investment for the Yankees. 

3. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
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Contract: 12 Years (2018-2030), $426 Million ($35.41 Million AAV)

Trout is the best player in baseball. In fact, he might just be one of the best players of the last half-century.  After injuries held the Angels’ outfielder to just 36 games in 2021, Trout hasn’t missed a step in 2022; his 2.4 Wins Above Replacement are tops in the American League and the second most in all of baseball. Able to do just about everything an outfielder could possibly hope to ever do, Trout is basically the perfect player. He hits for average (.310 batting average), unfailingly gets on base (.426 on-base percentage, second best in MLB), plays excellent defense and hits nukes. As long as Trout keeps up his current pace—spoiler: he can—he’ll be in the cat-bird seat to win his fourth MVP. If anything, the $426 million deal he signed in 2019 is probably a bargain. 

4. Carlos Correa, Minnesota Twins
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Contract: 3 Years (2022-2024), $105.1 Million ($35.1 Million AAV)

The marquee position player in last year’s loaded free agent class, Correa was forced to settle for a three year, $105 million deal with the Minnesota Twins after the MLB lockout derailed earlier negotiations. Although the Astros’ former cornerstone shortstop didn’t receive the long-term deal that he was reportedly looking for, the 27 year-old shortstop signed a player-friendly contract with the Twins that allows him to opt-out this off-season if he so chooses. By doing so, Correa can pursue a longer-term deal depending on how he performs this season. In Minnesota, Correa hasn’t quite been as monstrous at the plate as he was in Houston (his two home runs are a little underwhelming), but his leadership and all-world defense at shortstop have helped propel the Twins to a surprisingly good start. 

tied-5. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
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Contract: 7 Years (2020-2026), $245 Million ($35 Million AAV) 

Pulling in $35 million this season, Stephen Strasburg put together a 2019 playoff performance worthy of being in the Baseball Hall of Fame, leading the Nationals to a World Series win over the Houston Astros. The Nats rewarded the 2019 World Series MVP for his showing with a seven-year $245 million contract. The deal will keep the three-time All-Star with the Nationals until 2026, and barring a major turn of events, Strasburg will likely finish his career with the team that drafted him. Unfortunately, Strasburg has been injured for most of the last 2-and-a-quarter seasons, preventing him from showing off his abilities.

tied-5. Anthony Rendon, Los Angeles Angels
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Contract: 7 Years (2020-2026), $245 Million ($35 Million AAV) 

Another crucial member of the 2019 World Series winner, Rendon—like Strasburg—cashed in that winter. Whereas Strasburg stayed in Washington, Rendon signed a seven-year, $245 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels that’ll keep him in LA until 2026. Unfortunately, the 32 year-old third baseman hasn’t been able to live up to the standard he set in Washington, outside of a strong performance in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. 

7. Francisco Lindor, New York Mets
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Contract: 10 Years (2021-2030), $331 Million ($33.1 Million AAV)

The face of the Mets’ rapid retool, Lindor signed a 10 year, $331 million contract with the Amazins in 2021 after he was traded by the Cleveland Guardians. While Lindor hasn’t been able to match the success he had in Cleveland as arguably the best shortstop in MLB, he’s been the emotional engine of a Mets team with the best record in the NL through mid-May. 

8. Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals
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Contract: 8 Years (2019-2026), $260 Million ($32.5 Million AAV)

Since debuting with the Colorado Rockies in 2013, Arenado has been one of MLB’s best on both sides of the game. made five All-Star appearances and solidified. A three-time NL Home Run Leader and five-time All-Star, Arenado has also won nine consecutive Gold Gloves at third base. Although Arenado originally signed his deal as an extension to stay in Denver, he traded to the St. Louis Cardinals ahead of the 2021 season. In the midst of perhaps his best season, Arenado could bring nab his first MVP trophy in 2022.

9. Corey Seager, Texas Rangers
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Contract: 10 Years (2022-2031), $325 Million ($32.5 Million AAV)

The 2020 World Series MVP joined the Texas Rangers over the winter after spending the first seven years of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers. By signing a 10 year, $325 million deal, Seager secured the most total money of any player last offseason. After a rocky first few weeks in Arlington, Seager has regained his sea legs and is once again among the biggest-hitting middle-infielder in MLB—over the last 14 days, Seager has maintained a .966 OPS, which is roughly equivalent to his stellar 2020 season. What’s more, Seager is a proven playoff performer who caught fire in the 2020 playoffs to carry the Dodgers to a championship—the question is whether the Rangers can get to the playoffs in the first place.

10. Manny Machado, San Diego Padres
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Contract: 10 Years (2019-2028), $300 Million

The San Diego Padres are in it for the long haul with Manny Machado and made it official in 2019 when they offered him a 10-year, $300 million contract, which made him not just one of the highest-paid baseball players, but one of the richest athletes in the history of American sports. The four-time All-Star’s contract was eclipsed two weeks later by Bryce Harper’s $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, but the heavy hitter remains top ten in earnings. Machado finished third last season in the National League with 16 home runs and 47 RBIs. While the Padres infamously flamed out last season, Machado is scorching to start this year, carrying the Dads while Fernando Tatis Jr. is out.

Who Are the Highest-Earning Baseball Players of All-Time?
1. Alex Rodriguez
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Total Seasons: 22

Total Earnings: $450 Million

A-Rod earned an estimated $450 million during the course of his 22-year career. Rodriguez’s two highest-earning seasons came during the 2009 and 2010 seasons which coincided with the Yankees 2009 World Series championship. The fourteen-time All-Star also received a slew of endorsements deals which included partnerships with Nike, Giorgio Armani, and Radio Shack bringing him an additional $35 million on top of his MLB salary. Rodriguez retired from baseball in 2016, and currently works as an analyst for ESPN and Fox Sports. By 2023, Rodriguez will also become one of the principal owners of the Minnesota Timberwolves, buying 20% of the team at a valuation of $1.5 billion.

2. Albert Pujols
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Total Seasons: 20

Total Earnings: $309.2 Million

In a nineteen-year career that featured ten all-star appearances, two World Series championships and plenty more, Pujols spent the first half of his career in St. Louis with the Cardinals where he experienced the majority of his professional success, and has since spent the second half of his career with the Los Angeles Angels. Pujols has collected $309 million to date, and this season will mark his highest single-season salary with a base rate of $30 million. The 2021 campaign also marks the final year of Pujols’ contract with the Angels, so we’ll have to see what move he makes next.

3. Miguel Cabrera
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Total Seasons: 19

Total Earnings: $291 Million

Another veteran still going strong, Cabrera is currently on a ten-year contract with the Detroit Tigers as part of an eight-year contract extension signed back in 2014. Back in 2014, Cabrera’s deal was largest in baseball history—in fact, the deal was so groundbreaking that he’s still one of the highest-paid baseball players of all time nearly a decade later. The eleven-time All-Star will earn a base salary of $30 million this year, and $32 million during the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

4. Derek Jeter
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Total Seasons: 20

Total Earnings: $266 Million

One of the greatest and highest-paid baseball players the world has ever seen, Derek Jeter grossed $266 million during his two decade career. Similar to his Yankees teammate A-Rod, Jeter’s highest earning season came during the 2010 campaign, where the fourteen-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion earned the coveted AL Hank Aaron Award. Jeter also had brand partnerships with Nike and Gatorade which brought him an estimated $10 million on top of his annual baseball salary. Jeter spent his entire career with the Yankees retiring in 2014, and is now the Chief Executive Officer and part owner of the Miami Marlins.

5. CC Sabathia
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Total Seasons: 19

Total Earnings: $264.8 Million

Since we’re on the subject of top-earning Yankees, CC Sabathia banked $264 million in his nineteen-year career, which also included tenures with the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers. Sabathia signed a seven-year $161 million deal with the Yankees, which at the time was the biggest contract ever for a starting pitcher. The LHP earned $25 million during the 2017 season, making it his highest single-season salary. In addition to being one of the highest-paid baseball players, Sabathia retired a world champion and six-time All-Star in 2019.

6. Carlos Beltrán
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Total Seasons: 20

Total Earnings: $248.9 Million

While Beltrán has experienced some controversy recently, that doesn’t take away from his professional accomplishments as a player. Beltrán collected $248.9 million in a career that spanned 20 years, playing for eight different teams during the course of his 20 seasons. Beltran earned $18.5 million during his 2009 and 2010 seasons with the New York Mets, making those the highest-earning of his career. The outfielder made nine All-Star appearances and retired in 2017 after winning a title with the Houston Astros.

7. Justin Verlander
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Total Seasons: 16

Total Earnings: $241 Million

Earlier in this article we mentioned how future all-time lists will have to eventually be revamped to include the current top-earners due to their massive contracts. Since we have already covered Verlander, we won’t go over all of his earnings again. However, as a reminder, Verlander has made over $241 million in his career, and will make $33 million this upcoming season despite being on the injured list thanks to the MLB’s guaranteed contracts. Verlander currently sits at number seven on the all-time list.

8. Manny Ramirez
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Total Seasons: 19

Total Earnings: 232.1 Million

One of the most beloved players in the history of Major League Baseball, Manny Ramirez brought in $232 Million in a career that included twelve All-Star appearances, and two championships with the Boston Red Sox, where Ramirez experienced his highest yearly salaries. The should-be Hall of Famer retired from the MLB in 2011, and coached in the Australian Baseball League for a brief period in 2020.

9. Zack Greinke, Houston Astros
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Total Seasons: 17

Total Earnings: $227 Million

Similar to Verlander, Greinke is another active pitcher who will go down as one of this era’s best pitchers as well as one of the highest-paid baseball players of all-time. After his $206 million contract expired last offseason, Greinke has returned to Kansas City on a significantly cheaper deal.

10. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
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Total Seasons: 14

Total Earnings: $228 Million

Riding high on the Dodgers World Series victory against the Tampa Bay Rays, the eight-time All-Star will enjoy a $23 million salary as a part of the $93 million contract extension he signed with the Dodgers back in 2018. Kershaw has earned $228 million to date, making him one of the highest paid players in the league. With this season being the last in Kershaw’s deal, things are sure to get interesting in Los Angeles. Whether Kershaw remains in the City of Angels or not, he’ll be sure to command a hefty payday.

So as you can see, MLB players are among some of the highest-paid figures in sports. With more stars on the rise, we expect to see more groundbreaking contracts in the future.

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