How much do mlb players make? Baseball is supposedly America’s favorite pastime, and many kids grow up hoping to play on a major league diamond. But the odds of doing that are distressingly long, and the path is difficult. The press focuses on stories about the mind bogglingly high, multimillion-dollar salaries of star players, but literally thousands of baseball hopefuls will never see that kind of contract.
Major League Baseball includes 30 teams with 25 players each – a total of 750 active players. They play 162 games per season. Spring training starts in mid-February, and exhibition games are played until opening day during the first week of April.
However, most players start off in the minor leagues after they are drafted. The minor leagues have more than 200 teams with approximately 6,000 players. Out of approximately 7,000 NCAA players eligible for the draft, only around 700 are picked by a major league team. The chances of a player coming out of the minor leagues to play in the majors is about 10 percent. So the likelihood of a college player ever playing for one of the major league teams is less than 1 percent. Some players stay in the minor leagues up to 10 years and never get called up to the majors.
A formal education is not required to play Major League Baseball. Players can be drafted directly out of high school, or they can attend college and be drafted after graduation.
Industry and Salaries
The reported average salary of an MLB player is $4.38 million. However, the median income of $1.5 million tells a different story about the earnings of all players. The average gets distorted because of the large number of players with multimillion-dollar salaries. At the most recent count, 38 players are making above $20 million a year, and 125 players are pulling in more than $10 million.
Look at it this way: Suppose a group of 10 players got together for a beer. One player is a superstar and makes $20 million a year. The other nine are only drawing $50,000 each. The average salary for this group is $2.1 million. Does that make any sense? Nobody in this group is making $2.1 million. The median income gives a more realistic representation of the salary distribution. A median is the midpoint of a set of numbers. For the sample group, the median income is $50,000. That figures makes more sense, because the group has nine players earning $50,000 and only one player with a multimillion-dollar income.
Pitching is one of the highest paid positions in baseball. The median salary for a starting pitcher is $5.2 million, and the median is $2.8 million. A survey of the most recent contracts shows 15 pitchers making more than $20 million.
Designated hitters, a position only available in the American League, have the highest incomes. The average income for a designated hitter is $13.4 million, while the median is $14.3 million. This is a very elite group of players. Most of them are in their early to mid-30s and have established themselves as solid, reliable performers.
Outfielders do fairly well too. For example, right fielders earn an average salary of $5.2 million, with a median income of $3 million. First basemen are well paid. They have an average of $6.9 million and a median of $3.5 million. Shortstop pay is lower, with an average income of $2.6 million and a median salary of $1 million.
With the number of teams set at 30 and a limitation of 25 active players per roster, the number of players cannot increase unless the league adds more teams. However, since average playing life is 5 1/2 years, new players are constantly needed as replacements.
Aspiring high school baseball players see stories about the millions of dollars star athletes earn and dream of making that much someday. The truth is that playing in the majors requires an extraordinary amount of skill and talent, and a long journey through the minor leagues. Unless a player is already good enough to get a signing bonus, he’ll only earn a little more than a thousand dollars a month while playing in the minors.
2023 minimum MLB salary
Despite the star players of each team earning millions, the very fact that the Collective Bargaining Agreement specifies a minimum salary should indicate that it is needed. In fact, there are 129 players this season who are earning the bare minimum, with five more earning just $100 per year above the minimum and another five just $100 more than that.
There are some bona fide stars in that group as well, with Oneill Cruz, Anthony Volpe, and Charlie Culberson amongst the players on the minimum. One of these players hovering near the league minimum is Josh Jung, the third baseman for the Texas Rangers, and without doubt, the steal of the year at only $721,485.
The CBA lays out a schedule to raise the league minimum each year, and this season it is set at $720,000.
While the highest-paid MLB athlete is currently split between two players, Scherzer and Verlander, the lowest-paid is a 45-way tie between those on the league minimum.
Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander will make nearly 10 times the average MLB salary in 2023
The New York Mets aces will lead the MLB with the highest salary heading into the 2023 season. The starting pitchers are set to make a league-leading $43,333,333 million next season, helping push the Mets’ team payroll to an estimated $355 million. This absurd payroll will set an MLB record for the most expensive payroll in the history of the sport.
Aaron Judge’s new contract will pay him $40 million per season, joining Scherzer and Verlander as the players making roughly 10 times the league average.
Charting yearly increase in player earnings since 2017
After seeing the contracts dished out to Aaron Judge and Justin Verlander, it may come as no surprise that the average MLB salary continues to increase. As the game continues to expand internationally and domestically, the revenue for the MLB continues to grow as well.
Last season, Major League Baseball saw revenues of between $10.8-$10.9 billion, a record that has been confirmed by the league. As a result, players are able to demand more money in contracts, raising the average salary from $2.37 million in 2003 to $4.41 million in 2022.
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