Baseball’s Highest-Paid Players 2021: A New No. 1 As Mega-Contracts Reshuffle MLB’s Elite (2023)

MLB’s ten highest-paid players are breaking the bank, with Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor leading a group earning a combined $357 million.

Ballparks are filled with fans. The season will stretch to a full 162 games. The centerpiece All-Star Game will return Tuesday, a year after the pandemic killed it along with most of the baseball traditions that have filled the American summer for more than a century.

It’s back to business as usual in Major League Baseball, and that’s putting record paychecks on the board for the game’s top stars.

MLB’s ten highest-paid players will collectively earn an all-time high of $357 million this season, a giant leap from last year’s $152 million, when the season was shortened to 60 games and players’ salaries cut by 63%. The combined total is also up more than 13% from 2019’s $315 million thanks to a slew of huge contracts handed out over the past couple of years.

New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor tops this year’s list with $45.3 million in total earnings for 2021, including endorsements, followed by Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer ($39 million), Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout ($38.5 million) and New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole ($36.5 million). Rounding out the top five is Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander, who is making $34.2 million but is expected to miss the entire season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

Lindor, Trout and Cole are among the eight players in baseball with active contracts valued at $300 million or more, with Trout’s $426.5 million deal signed in 2019 the largest in baseball history. All but one of those contracts have been signed in the last two and a half years.

The cash is flowing to the elite thanks to richer national TV deals that pay the league an annual average of $1.55 billion—a figure that is double the average under the previous contracts, which ran through 2013, and is set to rise again to $1.84 billion under new seven-year deals that begin next season. For most players, though, there isn’t as much to celebrate: The average and median MLB salaries are trending down, with an Associated Press analysis in April highlighting the earnings stratification with the finding that 100 of the league’s 902 players will earn more than half of all salary money this season, up from 42.5% in 2017. Hitting further into the lower levels of the sport, MLB pared its number of minor league affiliates to 120 clubs this season, from 162, eliminating hundreds of players from its talent pipeline.

Making matters worse are the relatively limited opportunities baseball players have off the field. Shohei Ohtani will earn an MLB-best $6 million from endorsements this year, according to Forbes estimates, a figure that would barely land him among the NBA’s top 20. By comparison, LeBron James, basketball’s No. 1 pitchman, earned $65 million off the court while the NFL’s top endorser, Tom Brady, pulled in $31 million. Even big-name baseball stars like Cole and Stephen Strasburg have been unable to crack seven figures in endorsements. They can blame baseball’s regionalism, an older and less tech-savvy fan base and a marketing strategy that generally favors teams over players, who also must deal with a more grueling schedule than their counterparts in other leagues.

“It’s a hell of a long season,” says Joe Favorito, a veteran sports marketing consultant. “You have natural gaps in every other sport where if players want to do things off the field, whether it’s community events or promotions, there’s time to do that. There’s no time to do that in baseball.”

All of that, along with the glacial pace of free agency in recent years, will be the backdrop of contentious negotiations between the owners and the players’ union for a new collective bargaining agreement, with the current pact expiring in December. Many in the sport anticipate baseball’s first work stoppage in more than a quarter-century.

For now, baseball’s elite can only dream of the day when the endorsement dollars start to match the playing contracts, although a few green shoots offer hope in the form of a crop of young stars that includes Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. and San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. Perhaps their popularity both in the U.S. and abroad will tantalize advertisers in a way their predecessors couldn’t—or perhaps Ohtani will blossom into the icon the sport has long sought. But it will take time.

“It’s not something that can happen in one or two years,” says Favorito. “It has to be a concerted effort made by the players, the Players Association and the league that you’re going to market stars in ways that you never have been before.”

Here are baseball’s ten highest-paid players for 2021.

Francisco Lindor has gotten off to a rough start as a Met, batting .220 after a trade from Cleveland in January, but his bank account has never looked better: The mega-contract he signed this spring pays him $22.3 million in salary this season plus a $21 million signing bonus. The shortstop’s effervescent personality appeals to advertisers, with the 27-year-old counting Oakley, Pepsi, Mars Inc. and David Yurman among his partners.

On-The-Field Earnings: $43.3M — Off-The-Field Earnings: $2M

The three-year, $102 million deal Trevor Bauer signed with the Dodgers in February guarantees him $38 million in 2021, with the ability to opt out after the season and trigger an additional $2 million buyout payment. (Similarly, while he is due $32 million in 2022, he can opt out after that season and collect a $15 million buyout.) The 30-year-old right-hander has built a successful YouTube channel, with 405,000 subscribers, but now faces assault allegations and was placed on seven-day administrative leave last week. Bauer has denied the accusations.

On-The-Field Earnings: $38M — Off-The-Field Earnings: $1M

Mike Trout’s 12-year, $426.5 million deal with the Angels, signed in 2019, withstood the recent flurry of big contracts to remain the largest in baseball, although Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes did surpass him last summer for the top spot across U.S. team sports with a ten-year, $450 million extension. The 29-year-old outfielder has been sidelined with a calf injury since May but is gearing up for a return to the field after the All-Star break.

On-The-Field Earnings: $35.5M — Off-The-Field Earnings: $3M

Gerrit Cole signed with the Yankees for nine years and $324 million in December 2019, becoming baseball’s first $300 million pitcher, and his contract’s annual average of $36 million is unmatched in the sport. Things haven’t come quite as easily for him lately: The 30-year-old right-hander became one of the faces of MLB’s crackdown on pitchers’ use of sticky substances and has struggled in recent starts.

On-The-Field Earnings: $36M — Off-The-Field Earnings: $500,000

A return to form with the Astros in his mid-30s earned Justin Verlander a two-year, $66 million extension ahead of the 2020 season, but he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in September. Now, he’ll have to return to free agency while coming off Tommy John surgery and approaching his 39th birthday. The Hall-of-Fame-bound right-hander can at least count on partners Nike, Rawlings, Ford and T-Mobile.

On-The-Field Earnings: $33M — Off-The-Field Earnings: $1.2M

Stephen Strasburg carries a salary of $23.6 million but is also collecting $10 million in deferred money. The Nationals right-hander, who turns 33 this month, has another $10 million in deferred money coming next season and then a combined $80 million scheduled to be paid from 2027 to 2029.

On-The-Field Earnings: $33.6M — Off-The-Field Earnings: $500,000

Clayton Kershaw is earning $23.3 million in salary and $7.7 million in bonus in the final year of his contract, with the opportunity to make more in incentives. The Dodgers’ 33-year-old left-hander has started 18 games so far this season; if he gets to 30, he’ll pocket an extra $4 million.

On-The-Field Earnings: $31M — Off-The-Field Earnings: $2M

David Price, dealt from the Red Sox to the Dodgers in February 2020 as part of the Mookie Betts trade, sat out last season because of the pandemic and has mostly been relegated to bullpen duty in 2021, with one more season left on his contract. The 35-year-old’s name adorns the IMAC Regeneration Center, a medical clinic, near his hometown in Tennessee.

On-The-Field Earnings: $32M — Off-The-Field Earnings: $500,000

George Springer inked a six-year, $150 million deal to jump from the Astros to the Blue Jays in free agency in January, but injuries delayed the 31-year-old outfielder’s debut with Toronto and have limited him to 17 games. His corporate partners include Nike, TD Bank and Topps.

On-The-Field Earnings: $32M — Off-The-Field Earnings: $500,000

Newly dethroned as baseball’s top pitchman, Bryce Harper still makes an estimated $5 million annually from an endorsement portfolio that includes Under Armour, Gatorade, Acuvue and T-Mobile. The outfielder set an MLB record for total contract value with the 13-year, $330 million deal he signed with the Phillies, but Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor and Fernando Tatis Jr. have passed him in the two years since.

On-The-Field Earnings: $26M — Off-The-Field Earnings: $5M


On-the-field earnings figures reflect base salaries, deferred payments and signing bonuses paid during 2021. Off-the-field earnings figures reflect annual income from endorsements, licensing and memorabilia, as well as cash returns from any businesses operated by the player. Forbes does not include investment income like interest payments or dividends and does not deduct for taxes or agents’ fees.

Nolan Arenado was not included on the list because his amended contract after his trade from the Rockies to the Cardinals in February guarantees him $15 million for 2021, with additional money due to come this year or in future years depending on whether he opts out of the contract. If he were credited for the full $35 million for 2021, he would place fifth on this year’s earnings list.


Baseball’s Highest-Paid Players 2021: A New No. 1 As Mega-Contracts Reshuffle MLB’s Elite? ›

New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor

Francisco Lindor
Francisco Miguel Lindor Serrano (born November 14, 1993), nicknamed "Mr. Smile", is a Puerto Rican professional baseball shortstop for the New York Mets of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for the Cleveland Indians. › wiki › Francisco_Lindor
tops this year's list with $45.3 million in total earnings for 2021, including endorsements, followed by Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer ($39 million), Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout ($38.5 million) and New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole ($36.5 million).

Who makes the most money in Major League Baseball right now? ›

Max Scherzer

Who has the highest MLB salary 2021? ›

Francisco Lindor, shortstop, New York Mets

Acquired from the Cleveland Guardians before the 2021 season, New York made Francisco Lindor the highest-paid infielder in MLB with a $341 million contract.

Who is the most paid baseball player in the MLB? ›

By the end of 2023, Ohtani will likely sign the largest MLB contract ever, breaking the record of $426.5 million held by his Angels teammate Mike Trout.

Who has the biggest contract in baseball right now? ›

Largest contracts (total money) in MLB history
  • Mike Trout, Angels: $426.5 million (2019-30)
  • Mookie Betts, Dodgers: $365 million (2021-32)
  • Aaron Judge, Yankees: $360 million (2023-31)
  • Manny Machado, Padres: $350 million (2023-33)
  • Francisco Lindor, Mets: $341 million (2022-31)
Feb 26, 2023

What is Babe Ruth's salary today? ›

Ruth salary in 2022 Constant Dollars= Ruth Salary in 1931 Current Dollars * (CPI in Oct 2022/CPI in 1931) Adjust the current CPI depending on when you use this lesson. See CPI link in resources. [Ruth's salary in constant 2022 dollars was about $1.5 million per year.

Who is the lowest paid MLB player? ›

2023 minimum MLB salary

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.

Who was the first MLB player to make $100000 a year? ›

It was on this day, February 20th, 1963, that the San Francisco Giants signed Willie Mays to a record contract of $100,000. Mays became the first major league baseball player to earn 6 figures, and his contract opened up the flood gates to more baseball players receiving a 6 figure deal.

Who is the highest paid athlete contract? ›

Lamar Jackson, starting quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens, has just signed a contract that makes him the highest-paid player in the NFL. He is the new king of money in the most economically powerful league in the world.

How much will shohei Ohtani make in free agency? ›

Ohtani is slated to hit free agency two years younger than Judge, so if he aimed for a similar deal through his age-39 season like Judge, he'd end up at 11 years and $440 million. (Add in the 2023 salary for an extension, and it's 12 years and $470 million.)

Who is the highest paid rookie MLB? ›

Cory Seager, a shortstop, signed a $325 million contract as a 27-year-old in November of 2021. Seager was drafted 18th overall in the first round of the 2012 MLB draft. Seager signed the deal with the Texas Rangers after spending his first seven MLB seasons with the Dodgers.

What is shohei ohtani salary? ›

What is the highest signing bonus in MLB history? ›

The largest signing bonus awarded to a drafted player during the capped era is the $8.4 million Spencer Torkelson received from the Detroit Tigers in 2020. Only two others have ever topped the $8 million threshold: Adley Rutschman, the last Oriole selected No. 1 overall, in 2019, and Gerrit Cole, back in 2011.

What baseball player signed a million dollar contract? ›

Nolan Ryan becomes baseball's first million dollar man | Baseball Hall of Fame.

How much is the rookie Babe Ruth worth? ›

Top Babe Ruth Rookie Cards

There are currently 11460 Cards of Babe Ruth in our Database including 2 rookie Cards and 4975 variations Cards. The most valuable Card of Babe Ruth is currently 1916 M101-4 Sporting News #151 Babe Ruth PSA 6 by M101-4 Sporting News from 1916 with a worth of approx. $1500000.0.

How much was Mickey Mantle paid? ›

Mickey Mantle earned a total of about $1.1 million during his major league career from 1951 through 1968, with top earnings of $100,000 per year in each of 1963 through 1968.

How much is Barry Bonds Jr worth? ›

Barry Bonds Net Worth
NameBarry Bonds
Net Worth (2023)$110 Million
ProfessionAmerican professional baseball player
Monthly Income And Salary$0.7 Million +
Yearly Income And Salary$8 Million +
1 more row
Apr 14, 2023

How much does a bullpen catcher make a year? ›

MLB bullpen catchers make an average of $90,000 per year, though salaries can vary from $30,000 to over $110,000. Although they're not technically a player, bullpen catchers are an essential part of the team, working to warm up starting pitchers before games and relief pitchers before they enter for their outings.

How much do MLB umpires make per game? ›

In the summer, we (Gameday) pays anywhere from $55-$75 per game depending on the age level. In the minor leagues, umpires can earn anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 per month, while in the Major Leagues, umpires can earn upwards of $300,000 per year.

Who is the highest paid baseball player who doesn't play? ›

Chris Davis Leads MLB's Highest-Paid Retired Players In 2023. I cover the intersection of sports, business and technology. Even after hanging up his cleats, the former Orioles slugger will earn $14.8 million in 2023.

Who turned down $400 million MLB? ›

New York Yankees star Aaron Judge turned down an offer this offseason worth more than $400 million from the San Diego Padres, Judge's agents told The Athletic.

What baseball player got $1 million a year? ›

It's Bobby Bonilla Day, in honor of the baseball player who made one of the best financial decisions of all time. Every July 1 until 2035, the New York Mets pay Bobby Bonilla $1.193 million as a result of a deferred contract he signed with the team in 1991. Who is Bobby Bonilla?

What baseball player gets $1 million a year? ›

(KGTV) — You may have heard that former baseball player Bobby Bonilla gets a million dollars a year from the New York Mets, even though he's been retired since 2001. It's true. July 1 is the day Bonilla gets paid each year. In 2000, the Mets agreed to buy out the rest of Bonilla's $5.9 million contract.

Who is the highest paid athlete in the world 2023? ›

  • Top ten highest-paid athletes in world sports 2023.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo - $136million ($46m in on-field earnings)
  • Lionel Messi - $130million ($65m in on-field earnings)
  • Kylian Mbappe - $120million ($100m in on-field earnings)
  • LeBron James - $119.5million ($44.5m in on-field earnings)
May 3, 2023

Who is the highest paid athlete including endorsements? ›

Ronaldo leads the way with an estimated haul of $136 million, including $46 million from his playing salary and bonuses and $90 million from endorsements, appearances, licensing income and other business endeavors.

Who is the first highest paid athletes? ›

1. Cristiano Ronaldo: $136 million. Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo ranks as the world's highest paid athlete with an annual income at a whopping $136 million. Recently, Ronaldo left Manchester United when his salary was doubled to $75 million to join Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr in January.

Who is the 500 million baseball player? ›

"Shohei Ohtani enters free agency and becomes the second $500 million player in MLB history by securing an 11-year contract with the Dodgers," wrote Bowden as a prediction of what will happen.

How much does a free agent make in MLB? ›

During the 2020-21 offseason, teams spent a grand total of $1.36 billion in free agency, per Spotrac. The average annual value of those contracts was $7.3 million. Last offseason, that average was $12.7 million.

How much do the baseball All Stars get paid? ›

That means each of the 32 players on the winning team will receive a $20,000 check. Players on the losing team will receive nothing. MLB first instituted the bonus system when the league's new collective-bargaining agreement took effect before the 2017 season.

What baseball player gets paid $300 million? ›

Manny Machado, San Diego Padres – $300M (10 years)

Has anyone won MVP as a rookie in MLB? ›

Fred Lynn, Boston Red Sox: 1975, Age 23

Fred Lynn did it in his rookie year—taking home both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards, and the Boston Red Sox to the World Series in 1975. They lost of course, in seven games. It would be Lynn's only World Series appearance—in the first of a 17-year career.

Is Shohei Ohtani better than Babe Ruth? ›

#Angels Shohei Ohtani has reached 502 career pitching strikeouts, which surpasses Babe Ruth's career total (per @EliasSports). Ohtani now has the most pitching strikeouts among players to hit at least 100 career home runs. Another key difference between the two players is their position on the field when not pitching.

How much do MLB translators get paid? ›

While ZipRecruiter is seeing salaries as high as $114,362 and as low as $28,591, the majority of Mlb Interpreter salaries currently range between $53,900 (25th percentile) to $74,400 (75th percentile) with top earners (90th percentile) making $90,626 annually in Brooklyn.

How much money will Shohei Ohtani make in 2023? ›

2023-2023 Arbitration
YearYearly Cash
Contract Notes: Largest ever salary increase and total salary for an arbitration eligible player at the time of signing
Sources: MLB contract specifics generally collected from Baseball Prospectus & Rotoworld.

Who are the most overpaid players in the MLB? ›

MLB's Most Overpaid Players in 2023
  • Madison Bumgarner, Arizona Diamondbacks (2023 salary: $23,000,000) ...
  • Patrick Corbin, Washington Nationals (2023 salary: $24,416,667) ...
  • Anthony Rendon, Los Angeles Angels (2023 salary: $38,571,428)
Feb 25, 2023

Who turned down the biggest contract in MLB? ›

News that Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto turned down the team's 15-year, $440 million offer, which would have been the largest contract in MLB history, continues to make waves around the league.

Who is the first athlete to make $1000000? ›

1970's: The million dollar contract

At the time the sum was considered absurd. However, it was soon superseded by baseball player Dave Parker, who in 1978 signed a 5-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates for $5 million, making him the first professional athlete to earn $1 million per year.

Who was the first $10 million dollar MLB contract? ›

Two years later Albert Belle became the first player to earn $10 million dollars in a single season. In 1997 Belle would be selected to his fifth consecutive All-Star Game, and for the second time the White Sox signed a player to a milestone contract.

Which MLB teams are profitable? ›

On March 23, Forbes released the publication's latest valuations of all the Major League Baseball teams heading into the 2023 season. There are few surprises -- the New York Yankees remain the most valuable team in baseball and in American sports, by a wide margin. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox follow.

How much will Shohei Ohtani get in free agency? ›

Reports indicate Ohtani's upcoming contract could eclipse the $500 million mark, which would make him the highest-paid player in baseball history.

What sport gets the most money? ›

Basketball is the highest paid sport in the world, with the average annual salary in the NBA in 2023 being nearly $10.5 million.

Who is the richest sportsman in the world 2023? ›

According to the list of the magazine 'Forbes', the Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo is the highest paid athlete in the world in 2023. The Madeira native has beaten Leo Messi, who was in 2022.

Who are the losingest MLB franchises? ›

The Philadelphia Phillies have the most losses, with 11,112, while the Arizona Diamondbacks have the fewest, with 1,946.

What is the cheapest MLB team to own? ›

The Miami Marlins was the least valuable franchise within the MLB, with a value of one billion U.S. dollars, whereas the New York Yankees can be considered the most valuable franchise, with a value of 7.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2023.

What is the richest baseball team in the US? ›

MLB RSN Rights Fees and Viewership. The New York Yankees, baseball's most valuable team, are worth $7.1 billion, 18% more than a year ago.


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