The top 10 biggest earners in the 2019 MLB season consist of 7 starting pitchers, 6 players earning over $30 million in a season, one player from last year’s World Series champions and only one team, the Washington Nationals, with two players on the list.
10. Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners): $27.8 million
Entering year number 15 in the majors (all with the Mariners), Felix Hernandez is coming off another season signaling his decline with a 5.55 ERA through 155 innings of pitching, with a career high WHIP and career low ERA+ to complement all the signs showing the end of a career is coming. He’ll be a free agent next season unless Seattle pick up a $1 million team option.
8 (tied). Justin Verlander (Houston Astros): $28 million
Verlander, who like Hernandez started his MLB career in 2005, is in a very different place. The 36-year old finished 2nd on the AL Cy Young voting, pitching 214 innings for a 2.52 ERA to go along with a league best WHIP and SO/W ratio. He’ll be a free agent next season. $8 million of his salary is being paid by the Tigers.
8 (tied). Albert Pujols (Los Angeles Angels): $28 million
Pujols is 39, four years since his last All-Star appearance. He’s coming off a season with 19 home runs, batting .245 to go with .289 OBP and .411 slugging. In short, better than 2017, but far from his MVP-Silver Slugger days. After this season, Pujols still has two years worth $59 million remaining on his deal, not to mention the $10-year, $10 million personal service contract that begins once his playing days are over.
7. Yoenis Cespedes (New York Mets): $29 million
Cespedes has played only 119 games over the last two seasons, including 38 last year. After undergoing surgery on both his heels, he’s projected to return sometime around the middle of the season. Last time he had a close-to-full season was 2016, an All-Star year as well as winning the Silver Slugger. He’s also signed for 2020 and a $29.5 million payday coming his way.
6. Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers): $30 million
Like Cespedes, Cabrera played very little in 2018; only 38 games. But he’ll be back and healthy to kick off 2019, although it’s hard to tell what the Tigers will get from him in his 17th major league season. Cabrera is guaranteed $122 million from 2020 through 2023, with vesting options worth a total of $60 million for 2024-2025, pending on MVP rankings.
4 (tied). Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers): $31 million
The luster of being known as baseball’s best pitcher wore off Kershaw last season, missing another chunk of regular season games and his worst (2.73) ERA since 2010. He also bombed in the World Series in the loss to the Boston Red Sox. He’s owed $62 million more for 2020 and 2021.
4 (tied). David Price (Boston Red Sox): $31 million
A player on the winning end of that World Series is Price, who ended years of playoff disappointments and underperforming with a fantastic World Series while winning 2018 AL Comeback player of the year. The 5-time All-Star is signed through 2022 in Boston, owed $97 million for his last 3 seasons.
3. Zack Greinke (Arizona Diamondbacks): $34.5 million
Greinke had another strong season with the Diamondbacks in 2018, making his 5th All-Star game and winning his second Gold Glove award, pitching 207.2 innings for a 3.21 ERA. After 2019, he’ll have two more years left on his deal worth $70 million overall.
2. Max Scherzer (Washington Nationals): $37.4 million
Scherzer’s remarkable stretch added another terrific season – an All-Star, 2nd in the Cy Young voting while leading the NL in wins, innings pitched, strikeouts, WHIP and a few more things. He has two more years after 2019 on the Nationals, worth $70 million overall.
1. Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals): $38.3 million
As always, Strasburg pitched well under what the Nationals hoped to see him on the mound: 130 innings in 2018. Solid numbers, but unlike Scherzer, Strasburg is anything but a workhorse. He’s signed through 2023, but he can opt out after 2020, in which he’ll make $25 million. If he sticks around, there are $75 million coming his way for the final 3 years of the deal.