Salaries in baseball have risen exponentially in recent years.
While only one player, Nolan Ryan, was making $1 million per season 30 years ago, 25 players will make $17 million or more this season. Fourteen will break the $20 million threshold, and one—Alex Rodriguez—will receive $30 million from the New York Yankees.
The combined salaries of the top two highest-paid players (Rodriguez and the Angels' Vernon Wells) will cost just $4 million less than the entire Oakland Athletics roster.
But how many are actually worth their exorbitant salaries and are contributing at the most important time of the year?
2012 salary: $30,000,000
Contract: 10 years (08-17), $275 million
Not only did Alex Rodriguez sign the biggest contract in American sports history in 2001, he actually opted out of the deal in 2007. Then the Yankees signed him to an even larger contract, committing themselves to more than a quarter of a million dollars, with another $30 million in the event that he passes the four players ahead of him on the all-time home run list (Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds).
His per-season earnings peaked two years ago at $33 million and will slowly decline until the end of the deal in 2017, but he will likely still be the highest paid player for the next few years.
His numbers this season have not been great, largely due to his battles with injury. His slugging percentage (.460) is the worst for any full season of his career, and his 17 home runs is one more than his career low he set last year.
He has a hit in each of his last seven games, including two home runs, since coming off the DL on September 3, but it still is nowhere near good enough for a player making more than anyone else in the league.
2012 salary: $22,500,000
Contract: 7 years (09-16), $180 million
Mark Teixeira was one of three big-money signings the Yankees made in the winter of 2008. He arrived in New York with starting pitchers A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia, and while the Burnett signing proved to be a bust, the threesome did help land the Yankees their 27th World Series title.
Teixeira finished second in AL MVP voting that year and came in 19th in 2010 and 2011. This season has not been as good. His home runs are down 16 from last year and he's on pace for the second-lowest haul of his career. He is currently sidelined with a calf injury.
2012 salary: $21,000,000
Contract: 7 years (08-14), $126m
Vernon Wells has been the recipient of two of the most stupefying decisions in baseball history. The first came at the end of the 2006 season when the Toronto Blue Jays signed the career .288 hitter to a ridiculous seven-year contract worth $126 million.
The second was perhaps even more surprising. Two years ago, the Angels traded for Wells, taking on his mammoth contract and sending Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera the other way. It's not a deal that has worked out. In 2011, Wells hit just .218 with 25 home runs. This season, his average has risen to .227, but his power is still down, with only 10 long balls to his name.
2012 salary: $19,000,000
Contract: 7 years (07-13), $126 million
Barry Zito's contract will go down as one of the worst in baseball history. He had a great career with the Oakland Athletics, going 102-63 with a 3.55 ERA. He also won the AL Cy Young in 2002.
His time in San Francisco, though, has been a disaster. In six seasons, his best ERA is 4.03, and he has had a mark above 5.00 twice. This season is the first time he has a win-loss record above .500, but don't let that statistic fool you.
Though he has 3-1 record in August and September, his ERA during that time is 5.57 and his WHIP is 1.52.
2012 salary: $18,000,000
Contract: 2 years (12-13), $40.5 million
So successful has Tim Lincecum been in his career, it's easy to forget he hasn't been around long enough to qualify for free agency yet. He made his debut in May 2007 and in the six years since, he's won 77 games, two Cy Young Awards and made four All-Star Games.
His contract does not eat into any of his free agency, as he would have been under the Giants' control until 2014 regardless of the deal. He has not lived up to it, though. Analysts will puzzle over what exactly happened to Lincecum this season, as he has totally lost everything that made him so dominant.
His ERA has almost doubled, from 2.74 last year to 5.11 now, and he leads the league in losses with 14.
2012 salary: $21,000,000
Contract: 7 years (12-18), $154 million
Adrian Gonzalez has gone a similar route to Vernon Wells. He signed a huge deal with a team in the AL East (in this case the Boston Red Sox), and after failing to up to his contract was traded to a team in Los Angeles, this time the Dodgers.
The Red Sox traded for Adrian in the 2010 offseason, sending a package of four good prospects to the San Diego Padres. They then signed him to a seven-year extension starting this season. While he led the league in hits in 2011, his power numbers were a great disappointment and he ended up being collateral damage in the blockbuster trade in which the Sox rid themselves of a quarter of a billion dollars in bad salary commitments.
The Dodgers have made a big push for the World Series this season, trading for Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino. It hasn't paid off yet. Since the trade with Boston, LA is 6-9 and Gonzalez himself has struggled mightily.
Since hitting a home run in his first at-bat, Adrian is 14-for-61 (.229) with no home runs, three doubles and seven RBI in 15 games.
2012 salary: $16,500,000
Contract: 5 years (09-13), $82.5 million
A.J. Burnett was traded by the Yankees to the Pirates after three lackluster seasons in New York, The Yankees agreed to pay $11.5 million of his $16.5 million salary this season, and $8.5 million of it next year.
After posting a 5.12 ERA in his Yankee career, Burnett has had a bounce-back season in Pittsburgh. He is 15-6 with a 3.68 ERA, his lowest in eight years. However, he is trending the wrong way down the stretch.
In his last six starts, Burnett has a 5.50 ERA, and he has not had a start in which he's allowed one or no runs since July.
2012 salary: $13,000,000
Contract: 5 years (11-15), $62 million
Given his performance in the years preceding the five-year deal Dan Uggla signed with the Braves, the contract doesn't look too exorbitant. He had hit 30 home runs in each of his previous four seasons with the Florida Marlins, batting a career-high .287 in 2010. His time in Atlanta has not gone smoothly, though.
A lackluster 2011 season was somewhat redeemed by a 33-game hitting streak in August. But there has been no such redemption this season. Uggla is batting .215 with 18 home runs, both the worst of his career.
The Braves are trying to rebound from a disastrous collapse last September in which they lost the wild-card spot to the St Louis Cardinals on the final day of the season, and Uggla is far from helping.
2012 salary: $16,000,000
Contract: 5 years (09-13), $80 million
Michael Young is one of the most versatile players in the league, able to play a number of positions and contribute consistently on offense. In each of the last two seasons, he's played at first, second, third, shortstop and DH.
Young had a great 2011, batting .338 en route to an eighth-place finish in MVP balloting. His 2012 season has not been so good for the defending AL champions. His average has fallen 73 points and his OPS has plummeted to .650.
2012 salary: $13,000,000
Contract: 7 years (11-17), $126 million
Jayson Werth's contract will be viewed with regret by the Washington Nationals. He hit a career-low .232 in his first season with the Nats in 2011 and missed all of June and July this season.
He is on pace for fewer than 10 home runs and 40 RBI this year and had it not been for a dire 2010, his OPS would be the second worst of his career. He is batting only .235 in September with a woeful .382 slugging percentage.