For guys who get to throw a ball around for a living, they sure do get paid a lot.
The average salary for Major League Baseball players has grown to an all-time high of $4.47 million, up 1.6% over last year’s average of $4.4 million, according to USA Today’s annual salary survey. The figure marks the 13th straight year of salary increases for players as league revenue continues to steadily march higher and higher. MLB took in around $10 billion last year with higher revenue forecast for 2017 as the league explores new revenue streams.
Baseball’s top earner this year is Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who will make $33 million. Even though he’s regarded by many as the best pitcher in the majors, that price tag would appear staggeringly high considering starting pitchers are only expected to start anywhere between 30 and 34 games.
But Kershaw’s salary is indicative of teams’ prioritization of top-tier pitching talent. Seven of the top 10 highest salaries go to pitchers this year, with hurlers Zack Greinke of the Arizona Diamondbacks and David Price of the Boston Red Sox coming in second and third place at $31.9 million and $30 million, respectively.
The top salary for a position player belongs to Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who will take home $28 million this year. Two players from the World Champion Chicago Cubs cracked the top 10: Jason Heyward with $26 million and Jon Lester with $25 million.
Several players will rake in lots of cash this year even though they aren’t on an MLB roster anymore. All contracts are fully guaranteed in the league, so players get paid regardless of whether or not they are on the team.
The New York Yankees still owe Alex Rodriguez $21 million this year even though they released him with much fanfare last season. Carl Crawford, who was let go by the Dodgers in June last year, will still be paid $21.8 million. And Prince Fielder, formerly of the Texas Rangers, will make $24 million this season even though he was forced to retire due to a neck injury last year.
The San Diego Padres have taken the concept of paying players not to play for them to the extreme. The team will pay out $35 million to players no longer with the club, which is more than the $34.6 million it has committed to its entire active roster. The team with the highest payroll for the third year in a row is the Dodgers, who will spend more than $235 million on players this year.