The 25 Most Underpaid Athletes and What They're Actually Worth

Nick Dimengo@@itsnickdimengoFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2013

The 25 Most Underpaid Athletes and What They're Actually Worth

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    You're probably thinking to yourself, "A professional athlete that's actually underpaid? There aren't any out there."

    Though we assume that every player who dons a uniform makes serious cash, these are the 25 players that aren't quite on that list—though we're guessing they will be soon.

    We've seen over the years the ones who make way too much money for their lack of production. We wanted to toss respect out for the ones who are a little bit more deserving. 

25. Rajon Rondo (Boston Celtics)

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    Rondo may be making serious coin, but as we've said in the past, the dude is probably the only guy in the league not named LeBron who could legitimately challenge a triple-double each night.

    When a guy makes more than $12 million a year, it's tough to argue he's underpaid, but for everything Rondo can do—when fully engaged—we think he's actually under his market value.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $12 million a year.

    What He's Worth: $15 million a year.

24. Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates)

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    After agreeing to a big extension with the Pirates last year, one would imagine the All-Star outfielder would be compensated nicely for becoming one of the most exciting players in the game.

    And though he'll earn a lot of money by the time the contract ends in 2017, the thing is so back heavy that it's hard to know how much he'll have accomplished by that time.

    Making just $4.5 million this year is an absolute steal for a guy just entering his prime.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $4.5 million a year.

    What He's Worth: $9 million a year.

23. Juan Mata (Chelsea)

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    Mata isn't exactly getting ripped off by the overspending Chelsea team—making $4.5 million a year—but after stepping in and becoming one of the team's best attacking players, one can argue he should be making more.

    With the inconsistency fellow Spaniard Fernando Torres has had since signing with the Blues in 2011, we'd be completely cool with Mata making his type of cash.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $4.5 million a year.

    What He's Worth: $6 million a year.

22. Sean Weatherspoon (Atlanta Falcons)

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    Weatherspoon may not be a household name for most fans outside of Atlanta, but if you've ever watched any Falcons games since the former Missouri product came into the league in 2011, you've probably noticed the impact he's made.

    A solid leader and playmaker, he might not stand out like some of the other premier linebackers in the league, but for what he's getting paid, he shouldn't be expected to.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $1 million a year.

    What He's Worth: $2.5 million a year.


21. Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)

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    We know that Lillard has only played 63 NBA games, but if he keeps going at the rate he is right now, he'll outplay his current deal by the end of next season.

    Like all first-year players, he's running on a rookie contract, but for the praise he's receiving, the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award could easily be making almost double his monthly income.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $3.2 million a year.

    What He's Worth: $6 million a year.

20. Chris Kunitz (Pittsburgh Penguins)

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    For a guy who currently sits third in the league in total points, you'd expect the Pens to reward the left winger with more money than the $3.7 million he makes right now.

    While one might assume Kunitz gets hurt because of his more popular and talented teammates Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, it's more so his age (33) that's probably held him back from getting a longer, more lucrative deal.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $3.7 million a year.

    What He's Worth: $4.5 million a year.

19. Mat Latos (Cincinnati Reds)

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    He may have only 105 starts in his first four seasons in the majors, but with a 41-33 career record and a 3.41 ERA, the 25-year-old pitcher seems to have proven himself as a top-of-the-rotation kind of guy.

    Earning just more than $4 million a year, the Reds are stealing a guy who could easily get 16-20 victories this season.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $4 million a year.

    What He's Worth: $6.5 million a year.

18. Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins)

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    Stanton may seem like the only guy who didn't get traded by the Marlins in the past six months, but that's because he's easily the cornerstone of the entire franchise.

    Averaging 35 homers, 86 RBI and a batting average of .276 in his first two full seasons in the majors, it's not wonder he raised hell about losing all the talented players around him.

    We're surprised he's not livid about his paltry $500,000 salary this season.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $500,000 a year.

    What He's Worth: $5 million a year.

17. Stevan Ridley (New England Patriots)

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    Like most guys on this list, the Pats running back still has plenty to prove in his career to earn more than the $500,000 he's making now.

    Bulling his way to more than 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns this past season, he's only a year or two away from asking for a serious raise.

    New England's been looking for a solid running back since Corey Dillon left the team after the '06 season. The second-year LSU product might just be it.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $500,000 a year.

    What He's Worth: $1.8 million a year.

16. Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)

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    One of the guys we'd absolutely pay to see is "The Manimal."

    He's exciting as hell.

    He dunks as hard or harder than anyone in the league.

    And he has a nonstop motor, tracking down loose balls and doing the little things to help the Nuggets win.

    Problem is, he makes a mere $1.3 million for his blue-collar play and nearly double-double average—which just seems like a travesty to us—even though it is still on his rookie deal.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $1.3 million a year.

    How Much He's Worth: $5.5 million a year.

15. Claude Giroux (Philadelphia Flyers)

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    At just 25 years old, Giroux has established himself as one of the finest center's in the NHL. He is among the league leaders in points thanks to his playmaking ability.

    As the captain and leader of the Flyers, one would think he'd be worth more than the $2.4 million Philly's currently paying him.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $2.4 million a year.

    What He's Worth: $4.5 million a year.

14. Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers)

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    Kershaw is hands-down one of the best pitchers in the entire majors.

    The 2011 NL Cy Young winner has been nothing short of spectacular ever since he took the bump for the Dodgers, proving to be a true No. 1 starter.

    But even with all his individual success, he makes a shadow ($11 million a year) of what he's really worth—though that will be changing very soon.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $11 million a year.

    What He's Worth: $20 million a year.

13. Torrey Smith (Baltimore Ravens)

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    With the Ravens sending Anquan Boldin to the Niners earlier this week, Baltimore has thrust Smith into the No. 1 receiving role—which he's earned thanks to his play over the past couple seasons.

    But just because he carries the title as top dog on the outside doesn't mean he's getting paid like he is, making just more than $500,000 for his 855 yards and eight scores last year.

    We know the Ravens are scrapped for cash, but after locking up QB Joe Flacco to a multi-year deal, they'd be well-served to have someone for him to throw to.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $500,000 a year.

    What He's Worth: $2.5 million a year.

12. Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings)

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    Not only is the Kings captain in the prime of his career at 28 years old, he's already proven to be a winner by leading LA to an unexpected Stanley Cup title last season as an eight seed.

    The stats don't tell the entire story on the hard-nosed Brown, who does get paid $3.5 million a year. He would probably earn a bit more on the open market.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $3.5 million a year.

    What He's Worth: $4.55 million a year.

11. Billy Butler (Kansas City Royals)

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    As the lone All-Star for Kansas City last year, Butler has quietly been a solid and consistent hitter in a Royals uniform—so he needs to be rewarded.

    He may be making $8 million this year, but for a power hitter who hits for a high average and is still only 26 years old, how many teams would love to have him in the middle of their lineup?

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $8 million a year.

    What He's Worth: $12.5 million a year 

10. Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants)

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    One constant about most World Series teams is the leadership and ability of their catcher.

    If that's the recipe for success, than it's no wonder the Giants have won two championships in the past three seasons, because Posey is one of the best in the biz.

    Though he got a raise from $615,000 last year to $8 million this upcoming season, it's less than half of what the reigning NL MVP and two-time World Series champ should be depositing into his bank account.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $8 million a year.

    What He's Worth: $18 million a year.

9. Matt Duchene (Colorado Avalanche)

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    If Barry Melrose says a player is good, than most of the time that player turns out OK.

    So when the ESPN hockey analyst predicted the phenomenal streak the Blackhawks had to start this season would end in Colorado thanks in part to Duchene, we shouldn't have been surprised.

    The center might only be 22 years old, but he deserves grown man-type money, and not just the $3.75 million he's getting this season.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $3.75 million a year.

    What He's Worth: $5 million a year.

8. Jrue Holiday (Philadelphia 76ers)

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    As a first time All-Star this year, Holiday's helped separate himself from the pack in moving up the "best-point-guards-younger-than-25" list.

    But just because he's improved in each of his first three seasons in the NBA doesn't mean his salary has necessarily reflected that.

    Still playing on his rookie deal, he earned just $2.6 million this year, but should be in line to get a pretty nice chunk of change in the offseason.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $2.6 million a year.

    What He's Worth: $8 million a year.

7. Richard Sherman (Seattle Seahawks)

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    Sherman's recently gone back and forth on Twitter with the presumed top CB in the league, Darrelle Revis, and at no time did anyone laugh it off as if he was crazy.

    With size, strength, speed and a bit of arrogance that great players need to have, the shutdown corner brought in just $465,000 last season, which isn't even close to what top guys earn.

    He may run his mouth to anyone around him, but the Seahawks corner has certainly backed it up with his play, and deserves more dough.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $465,000 a year.

    What He's Worth: $6.5 million a year.

6. Jimmy Graham (New Orleans Saints)

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    Thanks to his production since entering the league three years ago, it's no wonder some call the Saints' tight end's salary the best value in the entire league.

    Scheduled to bring in $575,000 in the upcoming season, we'd say Graham has outperformed his contract, averaging 71 catches, 883 yards and eight-plus TDs, while earning a Pro Bowl visit in 2011.

    After wrapping up a 5-year, $100 million deal with Drew Brees last year, we're sure the QB would love to have his talented tight end to play pitch and catch with.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $575,000 a year.

    What He's Worth: $6 million a year.

5. Paul George (Indiana Pacers)

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    It's been a pretty good year for 22-year-old Paul George.

    He earned his first All-Star game appearance.

    His game is at a place where some of the best players in the world have taken notice.

    And he's on a Pacers squad that has grown together into a serious contender in the East.

    The only thing missing for the small forward though? A bigger paycheck, as he's earning just $2.5 million this year—though it's attributed to being just his rookie deal.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $2.5 million a year.

    What He's Worth: $9 million a year.

4. Clay Matthews III (Green Bay Packers)

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    When fans think of the top pass-rushers in the NFL, it's not uncommon for them to suggest the Packers' Matthews in that conversation.

    While he sees his QB-pressuring peers make bank, the long-haired player only brought in $800,000 last season—though he's on pace for a huge increase in 2013 to $3.7 million.

    He's averaging more than 10 sacks a season since coming into the league in 2009, and has gone to a Pro Bowl every year, so it's time to pay the man.

    At least he's making money from all of his endorsement deals he's had over the past year.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $800,000 a year.

    What He's Worth: $6 million a year.

3. Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)

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    During the 2012 MLB offseason, the Angels dropped some cold hard cash on guys like Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to try to help overtake the Rangers in the AL West.

    We bet no one thought that rookie center fielder Mike Trout would be the one who had the best season of any Anaheim player last year.

    Trout earned the Rookie of the Year and All-Star honors, yet earned just $480,000—but at least he got a recent pay raise.

    To put that in perspective, just look at when some other highly paid players get paid that much during a season.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $510,000 a year.

    What He's Worth: $7.5 million a year.

2. Victor Cruz (New York Giants)

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    With Cruz a restricted free agent, he's in line to potentially get a major boost in disposable income—but until he signs that dotted line, it's not guaranteed.

    If athletes are supposed to be rewarded for what they've done, than Cruz has quite the argument for a mega-deal, because he's definitely proven his worth.

    Some other wideouts are getting big-time bucks, so hopefully the salsa-dancing Cruz is next in line.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $540,000 a year.

    What He's Worth: $4.5 million a year.

1. David Price (Tampa Bay Rays)

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    It's pretty insane to think about how talented the Rays' left-handed hurler is.

    He's been the No. 1 overall pick.

    He steamrolled through the minors and up to the major league team.

    He has gone to three-straight All-Star game (starting in 2010), while finishing in the top 2 in Cy Young voting the past three seasons (winning in 2012).

    But with all that success, he's still not compensated the way he should be, making a laughable $4.3 million last year.

    He'll get an increase to more than $10 million this year. But make no mistake, he'll certainly get even more than that soon.

    What He Actually Gets Paid: $4.3 million a year.

    What He's Worth: $22 million a year.