The highest paid players in Major League Baseball are some of the best-paid athletes in the world. Coronavirus has postponed the 2020 campaign, and could have long-term economic impacts on the sport, so the players with guaranteed contracts are in the best position.
Mike Trout – $37.66 million
Arguably the best player of all-time and the undisputed best in the current game, Mike Trout‘s salary is befitting of his talent. The baseball-following world would have been chaos had Trout hit free agency. His decision to sign for effectively the rest of his career with the Los Angeles Angels has saved an awful lot mindless speculation.
Trout has no peers. He is a different level. MLB needs the Angels to be competitive, though, or we could risk the greatest player ever not appearing in the postseason again.
Gerrit Cole – $36 million
Rejuvenated in Texas, the New York Yankees landed Gerrit Cole this winter to lead a rotation that has been their weak point in recent years. Cole taking the ball on opening day was a long anticipated moment in New York, but COVID-19 has delayed it until later this year or even next season.
The first overall pick in 2011, Cole was disappointing Pittsburgh. Houston worked their magic on him after a trade that now looks like daylight robbery. Pitching for strikeouts, Cole was unlucky to miss out on the 2019 American League Cy Young award after posting a 2.50 ERA and 326 strikeouts – unsurprisingly the most in MLB.
Max Scherzer – $35.92 million
Few players age as gracefully as Max Scherzer has. The Nationals ace remains among the top three starters in the sport as he prepares for his age-35 campaign.
In his seventh postseason, Scherzer finally got his hands on the World Series trophy in 2019 and secured a fourth consecutive top three finish in National League Cy Young voting. He has had an ERA+ of 142 or higher in each of the last five campaigns, and led the National League in strikeouts per nine in 2019.
If coronavirus cancels the 2019 season, Washington only has one year of control left with Scherzer set for free agency after the 2021 season.
Nolan Arenado – $35 million
Trade rumours have swirled despite Nolan Arenado only signing a new contract in February 2019. The eight-year, $260 million deal should have locked the All-Star third baseman in Colorado long-term, but the Rockies could be set for a re-tool.
Arenado has the National League third base Gold Glove locked down, having won it seven years in a row. Offensively he is as consistent as it gets, hovering around 130 OPS+. A trade could be franchise altering for the team that lands him, but the Rockies will be looking for a major haul.
Zack Greinke – $35 million
A contract that looked like an overpay proved fruitful for the Arizona Diamondbacks at the deadline when they dealt Zack Greinke to the Houston Astros for a collection of talented young players. Greinke went all the way to the Fall Classic with Houston in 2019, but the Astros ultimately fell short.
Arizona is paying $10.33 million of Greinke’s contract for the two remaining seasons. Like a couple of others on this list, he has aged superbly. Houston need him to keep those standards up after losing Cole over the offseason.
Stephen Strasburg – $35 million
Signed this winter, World Series hero Stephen Strasburg is in position to be a one-franchise man. Injuries have been an issue for the hard-throwing righty, but a healthy 2019 came at the perfect time. Strasburg passed 200 innings for the first time since 2014, earning a fifth-placed finish in Cy Young voting. He added a further 36.1 postseason innings, leading the Nats to their first World Series title and earning World Series MVP honours.
With high velocity and a big curve, Strasburg is a fun pitcher to watch. Health has always been the main concern with him, and that might be what defines this contract.
Justin Verlander – $33 million
Embarrassed this offseason, the Houston Astros feature on this list for a second time with Justin Verlander following his rotation partner Greinke. Verlander, like Greinke, was acquired in a blockbuster trade, though it ended up being a serious bargain for the ‘Stros.
Verlander’s career was on the wane in Detroit. The Tigers were slumping into the deepest of rebuilds, and age looked to be catching up with 2004’s second overall pick. Revitalised in Houston, however, he has pitched over 200 innings in back-to-back seasons with a sub-one WHIP in both campaigns. He even landed a second career Cy Young in his age-36 season in 2019.
Manny Machado – $32 million
The first season in San Diego was a bit underwhelming from Manny Machado. A 2.5 bWAR isn’t much to get excited about with a salary this size, though Padres fans across the globe will be thrilled to see more of Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. on the left-side once baseball returns.
Machado is a four-time All-Star, yet this contract felt as much about investing in potential as landing a guaranteed superstar. His 109 OPS+ in 2019 doesn’t match the money committed by the ambitious Padres.
David Price – $32 million
With the Boston Red Sox covering 50% of David Price‘s salary, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a relative bargain. Price was sent to California in the trade that saw the Dodgers land Mookie Betts – the former Cy Young winner was almost an after thought.
The Dodgers took advantage of the Red Sox wanting to shed salary and landed a solid starter for decent money. Price remains a well-above average pitcher despite a never living up to the monster contract.
Clayton Kershaw – $31 million
Although past his peak, Clayton Kershaw remains one of the best pitchers in MLB. Kershaw has three Cy Young awards to his name and a regular season MVP, and since his rookie season, he has never posted an ERA+ lower than 133.
Thoroughly appreciated in Los Angeles, there’s a sense Kershaw has become underrated over the last couple years. He’s a player who may only get the respect he deserves once he hangs up his cleats and the baseball world reflects on an extraordinary resume.