The Highest-Paid Major League Baseball Players

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistAugust 11, 2017

The Highest-Paid Major League Baseball Players

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    Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

    It's no secret that the best of the best in Major League Baseball make a ridiculous amount of money each year.

    In most cases, the cash shelled out to the superstars of the game is deserved and the players continue to produce at an incredibly high level.

    But there are also some players who haven't lived up to expectations in every year of their mega-contracts.

    We took a look at the 10 highest-paid players in MLB in 2017 and evaluated how they are living up their huge paydays.

10. Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs: $25 Million

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    Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Details: six-year, $155 million deal signed in 2014

    Jon Lester was one of the big prizes team president Theo Epstein wrangled into the Cubs organization as he started to build the team into a World Series champion.

    Even when he had a losing record in 2015, Lester still picked up 11 wins and struck out 207 batters with a 1.12 WHIP, and he improved on that win total by eight in 2016 as the Cubs marched to the World Series. He also conceded fewer hits and runs in 2016 with an ERA of 2.44 and WHIP of 1.02.

    The 33-year-old has been worth every penny the Cubs spent on him. One could even argue that compared to the other pitchers on this list and their importance to their teams, Lester might be underpaid.

9. CC Sabathia, New York Yankees: $25 Million

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    Contract Details: seven-year, $161 million deal signed in 2009; 2-year, $50 million extension with vesting option for 2017 signed in 2011

    CC Sabathia was once the hottest commodity in the MLB market. He was traded from Cleveland to Milwaukee in 2008 before landing in the Bronx.

    Sabathia's deal has a lower total than the others on this list because of how the market has grown in the years since his contract was completed.

    If Sabathia were in the prime of his career right now, he'd fetch somewhere in the Clayton Kershaw/Zack Greinke range.

    Sabathia may not be the overpowering, exuberant left-hander who burst on the scene with the Indians, but he still packs a punch at 37, and he could fetch a decent deal during the offseason.

8. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels: $26 Million

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Details: eight-year, $240 million deal signed in 2011

    If Albert Pujols and his over 600 home runs are making this much money, imagine how much Bryce Harper and Mike Trout could haul in.

    Pujols signed a megadeal with the Angels in 2011, one that has been met with criticism at points during his tenure in Anaheim.

    The timing of the 10-year contract was a bit peculiar because ink was put to paper when Pujols was nearly 32 years old and coming off a decade of success with the Cardinals.

    Pujols' numbers haven't been as consistently high as they were in St. Louis. That has led to questions about how long he can sustain his power at such a high pay grade, especially when there's someone in the same lineup with better numbers in most offensive categories.

7. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners: $26.9 Million

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    Contract Details: seven-year, $175 million deal signed in 2013

    Felix Hernandez has only known one home in the majors, and Seattle has treated him like a king.

    Hernandez received the embarrassment of riches in February 2013 in the form of a seven-year extension. It was the first of two massive signings the Mariners made that year, along with Robinson Cano's $240 million contract in December.

    The right-handed hurler has been astonishingly consistent for the Mariners for most of his career. Hernandez has been around the 200-inning mark each season with 10 or more wins since 2009.

    But there is reason for concern with his contract since he's started to deal with injuries on a more frequent basis. With the extended time he's spent on the disabled list the last two years, one might start to wonder if the contract was worth it.

6. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers: $28 Million

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    Contract Details: six-year, $162 million deal signed in 2013

    Justin Verlander, like many of the game's top arms, commanded his contract because of how dominant he can be compared to the second tier of highly-rated starting pitchers.

    One of the reasons potential suitors of Verlander backed off at this year's trade deadline was the high price tag he comes with as well as his no-trade clause and two years left on the deal.

    Verlander has been a dominant force on the mound in most years since 2006. He's reached the double-digit win mark on 10 occasions, and he did so in nine straight seasons from 2006 to 2014. 

    Verlander has also recorded six 200-plus strikeout seasons and has a career WHIP of 1.195. During his most dominant stretch from 2009 to 2012, he was the master of the complete game, a dying art in baseball, as he went the distance 17 times in that span.

5. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: $28 Million

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    Contract Details: eight-year, $248 million deal signed in 2014

    Miguel Cabrera has been one of the best hitters of the last decade, and his talent demanded a massive payday from the Detroit Tigers.

    With options for 2024 and 2025, if he plays until the end of his contract, Cabrera will be 42 years old. While it's a rarity to see a player of that age, it's not out of the realm of possibility with the numbers the third baseman has put up.

    Cabrera has produced at least 25 home runs in all but one season since 2004, his first full year with the Marlins.

4. Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs: $28.2 Million

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Contract Details: eight-year, $184 million deal signed in 2015

    Jason Heyward is the most controversial name on this list given how little he produced for the Cubs in the 2016 season.

    Although he was the catalyst for the Cubs' Game 7 win over the Indians with the meeting he called during a rain delay, Heyward was a massive disappointment in his first year with the organization.

    What makes the contract more frustrating to fans is that Heyward's salary increased by $6.5 million from 2016 to 2017. It didn't help that the Cubs gave him a $20 million signing bonus when he put pen to paper.

3. David Price, Boston Red Sox: $30 Million

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Contract Details: seven-year, $217 million deal signed in 2015

    David Price set himself up to end his career with a terrific deal when he signed with the Boston Red Sox in December 2015. He makes a minimum of $30 million a year across the seven-year deal that takes him to the age of 36.

    However, the deal hasn't been ideal for the Red Sox, especially as the left-hander deals with injuries. From a team perspective, the contract seems risky given that it comes at the back end of Price's career, but he's proved he can be one of the game's premier arms when healthy.

    Like a few of the players on this list, Price is part of an illustrious franchise but is searching for his first World Series ring.

2. Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks: $34 Million

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    David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Details: six-year, $206.5 million deal signed in 2015

    Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Greinke has a shorter deal than most of the players with massive contracts around the league, which is more profitable for him since he earns more in the six-year span.

    There's no dip in pay for Greinke over the duration of the deal, as he'll make at least $34 million each of the six years while holding a limited no-trade clause.

    Greinke, who hopped around a bit before landing in Arizona, has already displayed how great he can be on the bump for the Diamondbacks this season with a 13-5 record and 3.14 ERA with 165 strikeouts.

    If he continues to pitch well this season, Greinke will hit the numbers we saw him produce in Kansas City, Milwaukee and Los Angeles in previous years.

1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers: $35.6 Million

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    Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Details: seven-year, $215 million deal signed in 2014

    It's hard to argue against the salary Clayton Kershaw is getting paid by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is one of the most valuable players in the game when he is healthy and dealing on the mound.

    The Dodgers have loaded up on superstars in the past, but Kershaw remains the key asset of the lot. He anchors a pitching rotation that is one of the best in the game, and he was locked down at the perfect age, as the Dodgers have him under wraps until his age-32 season if he doesn't opt out after 2018.

    Kershaw has lived up to the deal with the 2014 NL Cy Young and MVP awards on top of his Cy Young honors in 2011 and 2013. The only thing that has eluded him in Dodger Blue is a World Series title.


    Contract figures obtained from Spotrac.