MLB’s Highest-Paid Players at Every Position

top-2016-mlb-salaries

In the last 150 years, the one constant in American life has been baseball, and the one constant in baseball has been higher and higher salaries. The salaries are pretty high. Add all the money together, and the MLB basically has an economy the size of a medieval city-state. Players make more money in a year than most people make in a lifetime—and good for them.

Here are the highest-paid players’ salaries at every position for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Some of the highest paid players from 2016, you’ll find, are still the highest paid this year. Some are new additions to the long green dream team.

Will the highest paid players pull their weight this year? Tune in and find out. Add the MLB Network (available with the Multi-Sport Pack) for news and extra games. Or Add MLB Extra Innings to watch 100 live games a week. Any agent will admit: these are good deals.

Starting Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

2017 Salary: $35,571,428

Contract: Seven years, $215 million

Agent: J.D. Smart, Excel Sports Management

Worth the money? Yes

Kershaw is guaranteed to bring in roughly $35.5 million in 2017, making him the highest-paid pitcher in Major League Baseball. His incentives include $1 million for winning the CY Young Award and $500,000 if he places second or third in Cy Young voting. During his nine-year career in Los Angeles, Kershaw has pitched an average 177.0 innings with 193.2 strikeouts and 58 walks, and has given up 130.5 hits, 12 home runs and 55 earned runs per season. His career ERA is 2.38. Even during an injury ridden 2016, he remains one of the best in the game and is worth the Dodgers’ investment. He went 12-4 last year with a 1.69 ERA and made the All-star game even though he could not play.

Right Fielder: Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs

2017 Salary: $28,166,666

Contract: 8 yr(s) / $184,000,000

Agent: Excel Sports Management

Worth the money? Dubious

In the first year of Heyward’s $184,000,000 contract, he had a .230 batting average and 7 home runs. On paper, that does not inspire a great deal of confidence. But his performance in early 2017 shows signs that he’s progressing at the plate. And these are still the World Series-winning Cubs. Maybe there is something to be said about not messing with formula if it is working for a team. Overall though, Heyward is going to have his work cut out for him to prove he is worth his high salary going forward.

First Base: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

2017 Salary: $28 million

Contract: Eight years, $248 million

Agent: Diego Bentz and Fernando Cuza, Relativity Sports

Worth the money? Yes, but is the money worthy of Cabrera?

2016 saw Cabrera reach many personal milestones. He hit his 300th home run as a member of the Tigers; he was an All-star for the 11th time; he batted his 2400th hit. Cabrera has averaged 168 hits, 35 doubles, 30 home runs, 104 RBIs and a .320 batting average per season in his eight years with the Tigers. Cabrera is presumably on his way to Hall of Fame greatness.

Designated Hitter: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles of Anaheim

2017 Salary: $26,000,000

Contract: 10 yr(s) / $240,000,000

Agent: Scott Boras

Worth the money? Sadly, no

Albert Pujols is not the same player he was when he was on the Cardinals. The Angels signed him to a 10 year $240,000,000 contract in 2012, but his numbers have not been the same since joining the team. He has failed to hit .300 or above in any season with the Angels while he hit .299 or better in every season with the Cardinals. Pujols is not a bad baseball player by any means now. He was an all star in 2015 and continues to put up 30+ home runs a year for the Angels when he is healthy. However, in a contract like his, where the majority of his pay comes in the later years of his contract, this investment does not seem to be paying off. There is no sign of that changing in early 2017.

Second Base: Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners

2017 Salary: $24 million

Contract: 10 years, $240 million (full no-trade clause)

Agent: Roc Nation Sports

Worth the money? Could be!

The Seattle Mariners parted with a whole lot of dough to sign former Yankee Robby Cano. Cano will make $24 million this season, with a $50,000 incentive if selected for the MLB All-Star Game.

Cano seemed possibly overpriced in his first two seasons with the Mariners. He hit 40 fewer RBIs, 25 fewer home runs, 20 fewer hits and 18 fewer doubles compared to his last two seasons with the Yankees. However, 2016 was a great year for Cano. He hit .298 with a career high 39 home runs. It is too early to claim he is worthy of his $240 million contract (which includes a full no-trade clause), but if his performance in 2017 continues is similar to 2016, this paycheck may be worth it yet.

Left Fielder: Justin Upton

2017 Salary: $22,125,000

Contract: 6 yr(s) / $132,750,000

Agent: Larry Reynolds (Reynolds Sports Management)

Worth the money? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Let’s face it, Upton’s .246 batting average in 2016 does not exactly make the best case for his $22,125,000 salary. While he was able to put up 31 homers last year, 18 homers were hit during one six week period. That’s both an impressive feat and cause for a degree of skepticism. That being said, this is the second year of a six year deal. With 4 years remaining on his hefty contract, Upton will need to prove that he can achieve consistency instead of streaky hitting.

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jays

2017 Salary: $20,000,000

Contract: 10 yr(s) / $157,750,000

Agent: Paul Cohen (TWC Sports Management)

Worth the money? Yes, clearly

Tulowitzki deserves every penny of his $157,750,000 contract. He is in year 7 of his 10 year contract and has proven that the Jays got a good deal. Tulowitzki has hit .280 or better in 6 of the last 7 seasons. While last year was a low point (.254 average), he clearly pulled his weight in previous contract seasons. He is a 5 time all-star and 2 time gold glove award winner. Tulowitzski will continue to bat in the fifth spot in the order, and while his batting average might not reach its earlier heights, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to rack up the RBIs.

Center Fielder: Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets

2017 Salary: $22,500,000

Contract: 4 yr(s) / $110,000,000

Agent: Roc Nation Sports

Worth the money? TBD

This is the first year of Cespedes’s $110,000,000 contract. He was one of the best center fielders in baseball in 2016. With a .280 average and 30 home runs, you could say Cespedes earned his contract for this year. However, Cespedes is 31 years old and has come into his own only within the last 3 years. He will need to continue putting up 2016 level numbers if he wants to be considered one of the best.

Catcher: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

2017 Salary: $22,177,777

Contract: Nine years, $167 million (full no-trade clause)

Agent: Jerry Berry, CAA Sports

Worth the money? No doubt

Buster Posey is by by now considered one of the best catchers the MLB has to offer. He is one of the most consistent stars out there and an example of the rare catcher who is also an incredible hitter. Posey has been an all star every one of the last 5 years except 2014, and one could argue he deserved to be an all-star that year as well. Last year, Posey hit .288 and he won his first gold glove.

Closer: Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees

2017 Salary: $21,000,000

Contract: 5 yr(s) / $86,000,000

Agent: Magnus Media

Worth the money? Depends on whom you ask

The Yankees continue to believe Chapman is worth his hefty salary even in the wake of his 30 day suspension last year for domestic violence. This after the Yanks traded Chapman to the Cubs. He put up 36 saves with them and of course helped them win the World Series for the first time in 108 years. Chapman is at the beginning of his contract, but he has been a consistent closer for years now. He certainly does not show signs of slowing down, either. Though controversial, Chapman is a good investment at least from a playing pitching perspective.

Third Base: David Wright, New York Mets

2017 Salary: $20 million

Contract: Eight years, $138 million (full no-trade clause)

Agent: Levinson Brothers, ACES

Worth the money? Sure. Maybe. Well…

David Wright is one of the most beloved members of the Mets. He is a leader on and off the field with value even when he cannot play at 100% of his ability. However, after two injury plagued seasons, it might be hard for the Mets front office to feel as though he is worth his $20,000,000 price tag. In the past two seasons Wright has only played in 85 games out of a possible 324 games. On top of that, during 2016, Wright really struggled when he was healthy enough to play, only hitting a meager .226 on the season. Though still loved by Mets fans, his high price tag may make the Mets think Wright is wrong for them.

*****

MLB’s Highest-Paid Players at each Position, 2016

Starting Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

2016 Salary: $34,571,428

Contract: Seven years, $215 million

Agent: J.D. Smart, Excel Sports Management

Worth the money? Yes

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw is well on his way to a Hall of Fame Career. The Dodger’s Ace has already nabbed three Cy Young Awards, won a Gold Glove and the Pitching Triple Crown, and was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player.

And he is only 28 years old.

Kershaw is guaranteed to bring in roughly $34.5 million in 2016, making him the highest-paid pitcher in Major League Baseball. His incentives include $1 million for winning the CY Young Award and $500,000 if he places second or third in Cy Young voting.

During his eight-year career in Los Angeles, Kershaw has pitched an average 201 innings with 218 strikeouts and 58 walks, and has given up 150 hits, 12 home runs and 55 earned runs per season. His career ERA is 2.43.

Kershaw remains one of the best in the game and is worth the Dodgers’ investment.

Left Fielder: Josh Hamilton

2016 Salary: $28,410,000

Contract: Five years, $125 million (signed in 2013 with the Angels, traded to the Rangers in 2015)

Agent: Michael Moye

Worth the money? Depends on whom you ask

Once upon a time, Josh Hamilton was the king of baseball. The five-time All-Star selection, three-time Silver Slugger Award winner and American League MVP was on top of the world. But his struggles with drugs and alcohol resurfaced in 2012, which prompted the Rangers to not resign its once beloved superstar.

The Angels took a chance and signed Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million contract, a mistake for which the organization is still paying the consequences. Hamilton never lived up to his previous hype and once again, relapsed.

The Angels made a deal with the Rangers to get Hamilton off their roster; the Rangers accepted the trade, with one provision: The organization would not fully take over his contract obligations. An official number has not been reported from the deal, but according to the Orange County Register, the Rangers are paying roughly $6 million of the amount remaining on his contract, leaving the Angels with the rest of the bill.

Depending on the team you root for will determine if Hamilton is worth his salary. If you are a Rangers fan, Hamilton is a steal for your team. If you are on the Angels’ side of the fence, you probably want to punch your TV anytime you hear the name Josh Hamilton.

First Base: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

2016 Salary: $28 million

Contract: Eight years, $248 million

Agent: Diego Bentz and Fernando Cuza, Relativity Sports

Worth the money? That should not even be a question

Miguel Cabrera made history in 2014 when he signed an eight-year, $248 million extension with the Detroit Tigers, which is the largest contract extension in MLB history. And the Tigers’ investment was well worth it.

Cabrera’s $248 million dollar contract comes with the following incentives:

MVP: $2 million

Placing between 2-5 in MVP voting: $200,000

Placing between 6-10 in MVP voting: $100,000

LCS MVP: $150,000

World Series MVP: $200,000

All-Star MVP: $100,000

All-Star Selection: $50,000

Gold Glove, Silver Slugger: $100,000 (each)

Hank Aaron Award: $250,000

World Series MVP + Hank Aaron Award + MVP: $1 million (added to each award earnings, totaling $3.45 million)

Cabrera’s name should be legally changed to “Boss,” because that is exactly what he is. Since joining Detroit in 2008, Cabrera has won two Silver Slugger Awards, named back-to-back American League Most Valuable Player in 2012 and 2013, is a four-time AL Batting Champion and was the first player to win the Triple Crown in 45 years.

Cabrera has averaged 186 hits, 39 doubles, 34 home runs, 115 RBIs and a .327 batting average per season in his eight years with the Tigers. There is no question Cabrera will go down in history as one of the greatest to ever play the game and is without a doubt worth his monster $248 million contract.

Second Base: Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners

2016 Salary: $24 million

Contract: 10 years, $240 million (full no-trade clause)

Agent: Roc Nation Sports

Worth the money? TBD

The Seattle Mariners put a hefty investment into former New York Yankee Robinson Cano, but it is yet to be determined if it will pay off. Cano will make $24 million this season, with a $50,000 incentive if selected for the MLB All-Star Game.

After parting ways with the Yankees and signing a monster contract with the Mariners, some may consider Cano’s performance to be digressing. When comparing his Seattle stats to his final two seasons in New York, Cano’s numbers are worse. He has 40 fewer RBIs, 25 fewer home runs, 20 fewer hits and 18 fewer doubles.

Numbers don’t always tell the story, and it is too early to claim he is not worthy of his $240 million contract (which includes a full no-trade clause), but if his performance in 2016 continues to decline, there will almost certainly be some very unhappy fans in Seattle.

Designated Hitter: Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers

2016 Salary: $24 million

Contract: 9 years, $214 million (signed with Detroit Tigers before being traded to Texas Rangers)

Agent: Scott Boras

Worth the money? No

Even though Prince Fielder has predominantly played first base throughout his career, he has technically played the role of a designated hitter for the Texas Rangers.

Fielder was traded from the Tigers to the Rangers following the 2013 season. The Rangers took over Fielder’s remaining seven years, $168 million guaranteed in his contract.

Fielder will make $24 million this season, with the following incentives:

MLB All-Star: $50,000

All-Star Start, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, Hank Aaron: $100,000 (per award)

ALCS MVP: $150,000

MVP Winner: $500,000

Finish second through fifth in MVP voting: $200,000

Finish sixth through tenth in MVP voting: $100,000

$1 million for additional MVPs

Fielder played in 39 games at first base before having a season-ending neck surgery his first season in Arlington, according to ESPN. In 2015, Fielder was used predominantly as a designated hitter, playing first base in just 18 of 158 games. He was selected to the American League All-Star team and finished the 2015 season with 187 hits, 23 home runs, 98 RBIs and a .305 batting average.

Those numbers could warrant his salary if he was playing first base. But as an aging designated hitter, he is extremely overpaid.

Shortstop: Jose Reyes, Colorado Rockies

2016 Salary: $22 million

Contract: Six years, $106 million (signed with Miami, traded to Toronto after one year, then traded two years later to Colorado)

Agent: Peter Greenberg

Worth the money? No

The Colorado Rockies finalized a midseason trade with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015, swapping veteran Colorado shortstop and two-time Gold Glove winner Troy Tulowitzki for Jose Reyes.

In addition to his $22 million salary, Reyes has the potential to increase his earnings through winning the following honors:

Gold Glove, All-Star Selection: $50,000 (per award)

Silver Slugger: $100,000

LCS MVP: $250,000

MVP: $500,000

World Series MVP: $1 million

The transaction has not worked out very well for the Rockies. Reyes hit .259 in 47 games with Colorado in 2015, but the biggest concern for him pertains to legal matters. The shortstop was arrested Oct. 31, 2015, on domestic violence charges. He has yet to report to spring training, ESPN reports.

With all things considered, Reyes has been on a downward spiral on the field and is not worth his $22 million salary.

Right Fielder: Matt Kemp, San Diego Padres

2016 Salary: $21.75 million

Contract: Eight years, $160 million plus $18 million signing bonus (signed with LA Dodgers, traded to San Diego Padres in 2015)

Agent: Dave Stewart, Sports Management Partners

Worth the money? Leaning toward no

2015 was not a great year for the San Diego Padres. The organization had a new general manager in place, so the chemistry among the team may have led to the 74-88 record the Padres posted last season.

Matt Kemp’s performance in San Diego and the last two seasons spent in Los Angeles can be summed up in one word: mediocre. Kemp finished the 2015 season hitting .265 with 147 strikeouts. He is guaranteed to make $21.75 million in 2016, and if he continues to perform the way he did one year ago, it would be fair to say he is overpaid.

However, making that statement after just one season with an organization is premature, so for now, his value is to be determined.

Center Fielder: Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees

2016 Salary: $21,142,857

Contract: Seven years, $153 million (full no-trade clause)

Agent: Scott Boras

Worth the money? No

Jacoby Ellsbury signed a seven-year, $153 million deal with the Yankees following the 2013 season. And one could argue he has yet to earn his $21 million-plus annual salary.

While he has been a solid outfielder throughout his career, his batting numbers have been gradually declining since his first season with the Yankees.

It is fair to say the Yankees put way too much money in Ellsbury’s contract. To put it in perspective, Mike Trout is arguably one of the best center fielders in baseball today. He will make almost $6 million less than Ellsbury in 2016.

Catcher: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

2016 Salary: $20,777,777

Contract: Nine years, $167 million (full no-trade clause)

Agent: Jerry Berry, CAA Sports

Worth the money? Absolutely

Giants’ Buster Posey is arguably the best catcher in Major League Baseball. Not only does he have a solid rapport with his pitchers, he can hold his own at the plate and has been called upon to take over first baseman duties from time to time.

Posey will make $20,777,777 in 2016, but could increase his total earnings by securing any of the following awards:

All-Star selection: $25,000

Gold Glove, Silver Slugger: $50,000 (per award)

LCS MVP: $75,000

MVP, World Series MVP: $100,000 (per award)

Over the past four seasons, Posey has been the National League’s Most Valuable Player, won three Silver Slugger Awards and nabbed Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award honors. The Giants’ superstar has averaged 169 hits, 90 RBIs and .314 batting average per season.

Posey is one of the most consistent catchers in the Big Leagues and a true team player. There is no doubt he is worth every bit of his $167 million contract.

Third Base: David Wright, New York Mets

2016 Salary: $20 million

Contract: Eight years, $138 million (full no-trade clause)

Agent: Levinson Brothers, ACES

Worth the money? Yes

David Wright could change his name to Mr. Consistency and I doubt anyone would disagree with it. Not only is he a clutch player on the field, he is the definition of a true leader.

Wright will make $20 million in 2016, with $100,000 bonus incentives for each of the following recognitions: MLB All-Star, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and Hank Aaron Award. He will also receive $500,000 if selected as MVP and $200,000 if he places second through fifth in MVP voting.

Wright missed four months of the 2015 regular season due to a hamstring and back injury, according to MLB.com. His 2015 stats were not his best, but it does not define the type of player he has been during his 12-year career in New York.

As long as he remains healthy, Wright is worth every penny of his $138 million contract with the Mets.

Closer: Aroldis Chapman

2016 Salary: $11,325,000

Contract: One year

Agent: Magnus Media

Worth the money? Yes

Many fans will argue that closers are overpaid due to the limited number of innings they pitch. Fans often view closers in a similar light as NFL kickers: You need them, but they aren’t worth a large investment.

The Yankees needed to fill the hole left by one of the greatest closers of all time: Mariano Rivera. Enter Aroldis Chapman, who is currently one of the most legit closers in Major League Baseball. The Yankees pickup of Chapman could be the piece the Yankees need to replace Rivera.

However, Chapman was faced with gun and domestic violence accusations stemming from an October 2015 altercation with his then-girlfriend. He has not been charged with any accusations due to a lack of evidence, according to The New York Times. However, he will serve a 30-game suspension and is the first player to be penalized under MLB’s new Joint Domestic Abuse, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy, according to MLB.com.

But Chapman has proven to be a solid closer, and if available to play, could go down as one of the Yankees’ best trade acquisitions in recent years, which would make him worth the money invested.

All contract information via Spotrac.com.