Who is the highest paid baseball player ? MLB saw player salaries rise 14.8% in aggregate in 2022 to $4.2 million, reversing a four-year trend of declining player salaries. The New York Mets and the Texas Rangers led the trend last year, with the Mets giving their shortstop Francisco Lindor a 10-year, $341 million contract and ace pitcher Max Scherzer a three-year deal at a record $43.3 million annual value.
The Rangers have a well-paid middle infield after signing Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to deals worth a respective $325 million and $175 million.
Both teams continued spending in the most recent offseason, with the Mets handing out close to $500 million in guaranteed contracts after the Rangers signed away top pitcher Jacob deGrom in a five-year, $185 million deal.
Since 2003, the average salary per player has increased from $2.37 million to $4.2 million. In 2017, it peaked at $4.45 million.
In December 2000, Alex Rodriguez became Major League Baseball’s first $25 million-dollar-a-year player.
Baseball’s Highest-Paid Players 2023: Shohei Ohtani’s MLB-Record Total Lands Him At No. 1
When Shohei Ohtani led Team Japan to victory at the World Baseball Classic last week, striking out his Los Angeles Angels teammate Mike Trout to end the championship game, he delivered yet another incredible achievement to his ever-expanding baseball resume. As he enters his sixth big league season, Ohtani has collected a slew of awards, including the 2021 American League MVP. That kind of success has translated financially for the 28-year-old Ohtani, who is now the highest-paid player in baseball.
Forbes estimates Ohtani will collect $65 million in total earnings for the 2023 season before taxes and agents’ fees, an MLB record. Nearly half of that comes from the record-breaking one-year, $30 million contract extension he signed in October to avoid arbitration. Off the field, baseball’s most prolific pitchman continues his ascent to global superstardom, with at least $35 million in endorsement earnings annually, by our count. The next-highest off-the-field total of recent memory was Bryce Harper’s $6.5 million in 2022. Aaron Judge’s endorsement earnings ranked second highest on this year’s list at $4.5 million.
Driving up his pay is the fact that Ohtani continues to be a hit on both sides of the Pacific. His 13 partnerships include, in Japan, pharmaceuticals company Kowa, Seiko Watch and Boss (formerly Hugo Boss) and Fanatics and Topps in the U.S. In the last few months, Ohtani has added lucrative deals with Japanese cosmetics company Kose and New Balance. In addition to outfitting him head-to-toe, the Boston-based apparel brand has global plans for Ohtani, including a major push in Japan and a lifestyle footwear collection.
“Shohei’s commercial impact annually for the Japanese market will be to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, because he is a cultural icon in Japan first and a baseball player second,” says Chris Davis, New Balance’s chief marketing officer and the son of its billionaire chairman Jim Davis. “He’ll probably be the first and only baseball player of this generation that has the ability to have that level of commercial impact for a brand.”
Still, while Ohtani leads the pack, he’s not the only player to hit it out of the park this past year. Baseball’s ten highest-paid players are set to collect a record $436 million combined this year before taxes and agents’ fees, up 15% from last year’s all-time high of $377 million. It’s the result of an offseason that featured an explosive level of spending, like Judge’s nine-year, $360 million deal, Carlos Correa’s six-year, $200 million pact and Justin Verlander’s two-year, $86.7 million agreement. Verlander’s $43.3 million salary ties his New York Mets teammate Max Scherzer as the highest on-field figure for 2023, excluding deferred money.
In total, MLB clubs spent $3.8 billion on free agents, the largest figure in the 12 years of Spotrac’s data. That doesn’t include Manny Machado’s and Rafael Devers’ contract extensions, a pair of $300 million-plus deals from this offseason. It’s a welcome development for baseball, which posted a record $10.3 billion in revenues (net of debt service) in 2022 after a contentious work stoppage last spring threatened the season. “Historically, spending goes up immediately after a new CBA is put into place,” Matt Ricatto, co-head of CAA Baseball, said in an email. “This, coupled with the fact that there are several owners who are 100% all-in to win right now, helped drive this increase the most.”
MLB might have avoided that crisis, but another is unfolding. The recent bankruptcy filing of Diamond Sports Group, which owns the local media rights of 14 MLB teams, has left teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Guardians, Colorado Rockies, Minnesota Twins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padres, vulnerable to the loss of a crucial revenue stream. Compounding the matter is Warner Bros. Discovery’s announced intention to exit the regional sports network business; it has rights deals with four MLB teams. Even as financial uncertainty looms, REP1 Baseball CEO Chris Koras says the league has a unique opportunity to reorganize how games are distributed. Over the long run, he adds that the new CBA should keep player spending on the rise, but some teams might get squeezed in the short term.
In particular, two cases greatly attracted attention since the contracts signed by these players positioned them to be among the most lucrative earners of all time.
The first is Aaron Judge, who renewed with the New York Yankees for nine years in exchange for $360 million.
The second case is Rafael Devers, who signed an extension with the Boston Red Sox in an 11-year contract in exchange for $331 million, the highest in franchise history.
Top 5 best-paid per season
But on average per year, others are the highest paid for the 2023 season in MLB.
At number one are New York Mets pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, earning $43.3 million per season.
Scherzer signed in 2021 for 3 years and $130 million, while Verlander signed for 2 years and $86.6 million.
Aaron Judge is set in third place with $40 million per season.
Anthony Rendon from the Los Angeles Angels takes the fourth position with $38,571,428. At the same time, Jacob deGrom of the Texas Rangers sits in fifth place with a five-year contract in exchange for $185 million, representing $37 million per season.
In sixth place is Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees, who will receive $36 million a year due to his nine-year, $324 million contract.
Ranking seventh is Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, who has earned $35.4 million per season since 2019. He has signed the largest contract in history, one that lasts 12 years, in exchange for $426.5 million.
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