MLB's Top Annual Salaries After Mike Trout's Reported $430M Contract

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMarch 19, 2019

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 27: Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim reacts before a game against  the Boston Red Sox on June 27, 2018 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

If you're one of the best players in Major League Baseball, teams are ready to print money to keep you happy. 

Bryce Harper's reign as the highest-paid player in MLB lasted 17 days after the Los Angeles Angels backed up the Brinks truck to extend Mike Trout's deal Tuesday. The two-time American League MVP agreed to a 12-year deal worth more than $430 million, per ESPN.com's Jeff Passan

As slow-moving as this offseason was across MLB, three of the most lucrative deals in North American professional sports history have been handed out in the past month. 

Here's a look at how much money the sport's highest-paid stars will make based on average annual value. 

MLB Highest Average Annual Salary

1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels: $36.35 mil. per year (12 years, $430 mil.)

2. Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks: $34.417 mil. per year (six years, $206.5 mil.)

3. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies: $32.5 mil. per year (eight years, $260 mi.)

4. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: $31 mil. per year (eight years, $248 mil.)

T5. David Price, Boston Red Sox: $31 mil. per year (seven years, $217 mil.)

T5. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers: $31 mil. per year (three years, $93 mil.)

T7. Manny Machado, San Diego Padres: $30 mil. per year (10 years, $300 mil.)

T7. Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals: $30 mil. per year (seven years, $210 mil.)

9. Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets: $27.5 mil. per year (four years, $110 mil.)

10. Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs: $25.833 mil. per year (six years, $155 mil.)

11. Justin Verlander, Houston Astros: $25.714 mil. per year (seven years, $180 mil.)

12. Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies: $25.385 mil. per year (13 years, $330 mil.)

T13. Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees: $25 mil. mil per year (13 years, $325 mil.)

T13. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners: $25 mil. per year (seven years, $175 mil.)

T13. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals: $25 mil. per year (seven years, $175 mil.)

T13. Jake Arrieta, Philadelphia Phillies: $25 mil. per year (three years, $75 mil.)

T17. Robinson Cano, New York Mets: $24 mil. per year (10 years, $240 mil.)

T17. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels: $24 mil. per year (10 years, $240 mil.)

T17. Cole Hamels, Chicago Cubs: $24 mil. per year (six years, $144 mil.)

20. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros: $23.357 mil. per year (seven years, $163.5 mil.)

21. Patrick Corbin, Washington Nationals: $23.333 mil. per year (six years, $140 mil.)

T22. Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs: $23 mil. per year (eight years, $184 mil.)

T22. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles: $23 mil. per year (seven years, $161 mil.)

T22. Josh Donaldson, Atlanta Braves: $23 mil. per year (one year, $23 mil.)

25. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds: $22.5 mil. per year (10 years, $225 mil.)

Contract info via Spotrac.com

Trout has been regarded as the best player in MLB essentially since his first full season in 2012. He hasn't finished lower than fourth in AL MVP voting in each of the past seven years, winning the award in 2014 and 2016. 

Per MLB Network's Sarah Langs, Trout has been worth more wins above replacement than the 24 players drafted ahead of him in 2009:

Sarah Langs @SlangsOnSports

The first 24 picks in the 2009 MLB Draft have combined for 121.6 WAR. Mike Trout, the 25th pick, has 64.3 WAR -- more than half that total -- all on his own.

The last time the Angels handed out a blockbuster contract was to Albert Pujols after the 2011 season. That deal, worth $240 million over 10 years, quickly backfired, as he's hit .260/.315/.453 with Los Angeles. 

One key difference between the deals for Pujols and Trout is age. Pujols' first year with the Angels was his age-32 season. Trout will play most of this season at 27 years old, and he will be younger when his deal expires (39) than Pujols when his deal expires after 2021 (41).

In other words, Trout is one of the few MLB players capable of living up to the potential that comes with being the highest-paid athlete in professional sports history. 

Per SportsCenter, Trout's contract more than doubles what the highest-paid athlete in the four major sports in the United States will make:

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

Mike Trout's extension is something special compared to the biggest contracts across the NBA, NFL and NHL 😳 https://t.co/nemn7DAEH5

Despite the lucrative deals handed out to Harper and Manny Machado in the past month, both players rank outside the top five in average annual salary. Even though both stars warranted the contracts they received on performance and age, their respective teams did well to maintain flexibility for the future to build around them.

Looking at which teams have been most aggressive with their spending, the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals lead the pack with three players each in the top 25 in average annual salary.

The Cubs' position comes with an asterisk because Cole Hamels originally signed his deal in July 2012 with the Phillies. 

Both the Cubs and Nationals have benefited from their expenditures. Jason Heyward and Jon Lester were key contributors to Chicago's 2016 World Series squad. Washington has won four division titles in the previous seven seasons. 

One notable surprise on this list is how frugal the New York Yankees have been. Masahiro Tanaka just missed the list with an average salary of $22.143 million. The acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton gave them their lone representative on the top 25, but the Miami Marlins signed him to that deal in 2014. 

Since team spending has been a frequent topic of conversation this offseason, it's worth noting that 16 of the top 25 players in average annual salary signed their deals in 2016 or earlier.

There a number of factors that play into this disparity. Teams don't appear to be as willing as they once were to hand out massive long-term contracts unless they are getting proven superstars like Trout, Harper and Machado. 

MLB's salary rules for players in the first six years of their career also give teams a lot of control. Mookie Betts, reigning AL MVP, set an MLB record by agreeing to a $20 million contract for 2019 in his second year of arbitration with the Boston Red Sox. 

Betts has been in the conversation with Trout for best player in MLB over the past three years. He has 27.0 wins above replacement since 2016, per Baseball-Reference.com. Trout has been worth 27.3 WAR during that same span. 

Boston is going to be in a difficult position when Betts' comes due for a long-term contract. Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts will be free agents after this season. Betts is most likely to be the next player who will receive a deal in the same realm as Harper and Trout. 

Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor has finished in the top 10 of AL MVP voting each of the past three years, but he never made more than $623,200 in any of those seasons. 

Lindor will earn $10.55 million in 2019, his first year of arbitration. He's still making less than Matt Harvey will get from the Angels ($11 million).

The largest contract Cleveland has ever handed out was $65 million over three years to Edwin Encarnacion two years ago. Unless the Indians are willing to shatter that ceiling to keep their franchise player, Lindor will likely be looking at a contract worth at least $300 million, especially because of his value as an elite defensive shortstop. 

With apologies to the ongoing free agency of Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel, MLB teams have shown there is money to spend. They are just being more diligent in which players they are willing to pay for.