Who are the highest-paid MLB players in 2022?
The most recent CBA raised the minimum salary for MLB players up to $700,000, but there exists a level of player who earn much more than that.
MLB player contracts have been on a constant rise for decades and, after last offseason’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement which raised luxury tax thresholds, there is no sign that it will stop. Juan Soto’s anticipated record-breaking deal never materialized, and a few big-name free agents are expected to light up the market after the World Series, notably Aaron Judge and Shohei Ohtani.
How much a player earns in the major leagues is as much about the way you define “earns” as anything else. If you look at guaranteed money vs payroll salary, you will get two completely different lists. Ditto that if you compare total contract value as well.
Here are the top five MLB players in terms of total cash for the 2022 season:
5. Carlos Correa, SS, Twins, $35.1 million
The shortstop entered free agency after extension talks with the Astros collapsed last season and, with Scott Boras as his agent, he looked for the biggest contract ever for that position, more than Francisco Lindor’s $341 million and Corey Seager’s $325 million. The 27-year-old did not find a long-term contract with those values, so he decided to sign with the Twins for three years and a $35 million annual average salary, with opt outs after each season. He is once again playing great baseball, so who knows if he’ll go into the market again and find an even better contract soon.
4. Mike Trout, OF, Angels, $35.45 million
The best player in baseball right now signed the biggest contract ever in the sport, and he’s still being underpaid. Trout signed a 12-year, $426 million deal a couple of years ago, so the Angels have team control until his age-39 season. He’s still playing like no one else can, with a 170 OPS+ and good CF defense, but the Angels cannot get out of their own ways, so at 39-53 they will miss the playoffs once again. There’s still a lot of prime Trout left, but the clock is ticking.
3. Gerrit Cole, SP, Yankees, $36 million
The New York Yankees needed an ace starting pitcher, and in 2020 they paid for one in Gerrit Cole. The pitcher, who had been with the Pirates and Astros, is a five-time All-Star and Cy Young candidate who deserves the nine-year, $324 million contract the team from the Bronx gave him. If he keeps playing like he has so far and the Yankees get to the World Series once again, both team and player will be happy with their partnership.
2. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Angels, $38 million
One of those contracts that is based on past production, not on the present or future of Rendon with the Angels. He was an MVP caliber player with the Nationals for half a decade, but has not been able to stay on the field since he signed a massive seven-year, $245 million contract which will pay him even more, around $38 million, for the next four seasons. Rendon was supposed to be the missing hitter to help Trout and Ohtani reach the playoffs, but just as Justin Upton ended up being cut, Rendon might be out the door sooner rather than later, even with this contract.
1. Max Scherzer, SP, Mets, $43.3 million
Scherzer signed a seven-year, $210 million deal with the Nationals back in 2015, won a World Series and pitched amazingly every season. Once his contract was nearing the end, he got traded to the Dodgers and ended up entering free agency at age 37, with the expectation he would choose between one last big contract or the chance to win a World Series but for less money. He chose both, as the Steve Cohen-owned Mets made him the highest paid MLB player ever with a three-year, $130 million contract, unlike anything the league had ever seen. He’s been battling a few injuries this year, but every time he pitches everyone understands why the Mets decided to pay him all that money and pair him up with Jacob DeGrom.
Interesting to note that none of these players is in the World Series, a trend that changes if you look at total contract value.
Total Contract Value top five
An interesting side note to all of this is who lies just outside of the top five. When looking at payroll, Trevor Bauer ranks number six at $35.3 million, despite being banned from baseball for two full seasons. If you look at total cash, he comes in at number seven with $32 million, and his total contract value of $102 million puts him within the top 50 at number 46. Not bad for a guy who is generally thought to have seen the end of his playing days.