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Highest Paid Baseball Players

January 13, 2012 by staff 

Highest Paid Baseball Players, Alex Rodriguez is earning the highest salary in MLB in 2011 at $32,000,000. He also has the highest career earnings in MLB history.
The highest paid player in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the 2011 season is New York Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez with an annual salary of $32,000,000, nearly $6 million higher than the second-highest paid player, Vernon Wells. Unlike other American professional sports leagues, MLB does not have a hard salary cap, instead employing a luxury tax which applies to teams whose total payroll exceeds certain set thresholds for a given season. Free agency did not exist in MLB prior to the end of the reserve clause in the 1970s, resulting in significantly lower salaries before that time. For example Babe Ruth, widely regarded as one of the greatest baseball players ever, earned an estimated $910,696 ($14,575,568 inflation-adjusted from 1935 dollars) over his entire playing career. When asked in 1929 whether he thought he should earn more than the president, Herbert Hoover, Ruth famously remarked, “Why not, I had a better year than he did.”

Rodriguez has signed two record-breaking contracts over the course of his career. First, he signed a $252 million, 10-year contract with the Texas Rangers in December 2000 ($321,375,727 inflation-adjusted from 2000 dollars). Sandy Alderson called the deal “stupefying,” while Sports Illustrated noted that Rodriguez’s early salaries under the contract ($21 million) would be greater than the annual payroll of the entire Minnesota Twins team that year ($15.8 million). The deal was the largest sports contract in history, doubling the total value of Kevin Garnett’s $126 million National Basketball Association contract (the previous record holder) and more than doubling Mike Hampton’s $121 million contract, the previous MLB record which had been signed just days before. The Rangers later traded Rodriguez to the Yankees in exchange for Alfonso Soriano before the 2004 season, though they agreed to pay $67 million of the $179 million outstanding on the contract. Despite this, he opted out of the remainder of his deal after the 2007 season and renegotiated a new $275 million, 10-year agreement with the Yankees, breaking his own record for the largest sports contract. Under this deal, Rodriguez also receives $6 million each if and when he ties the career home run totals of Willie Mays (660), Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755), and Barry Bonds (762), along with another $6 million for breaking Bonds’ mark.

First base was the highest paid position in 2010; regular starters at that position earned an average salary of $9,504,165 in compared to an overall average of $3,014,572. Pitcher Nolan Ryan was the first player to earn an annual salary above $1 million, signing a $4.5 million, 4-year contract with the Houston Astros in 1979. Kirby Puckett and Rickey Henderson signed the first contracts which paid an average of $3 million a year in November 1989, while 2010 was the first season where the MLB average salary rose above that same mark. Four of the twenty highest paid players in 2011 were members of the Yankees. Their team payroll for 2011 was $202,689,028, roughly $30 million above the second-largest Philadelphia Phillies. The Yankees have drawn criticism for their spending habits, with some claiming it undermines the parity of MLB.

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