The upper echelon of earners in Major League Baseball is favoring the pitchers, with seven of them appearing in the top 11, including having the only three players making over $30 million this season. The Detroit Tigers are the only team with two players on this list, although the Los Angeles Angels, represented by Albert Pujols, are paying most of what Josh Hamilton, playing for the Texas Rangers, is making.
Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies – $25 million
The 36-year old infielder begins the final guaranteed season on his contract and stands as the last expensive piece the Phillies have from somewhat better days. In 2017 there’s a $23 million team option and a $10 million buyout clause. Howard, a three-time All-Star and one-time NL MVP, has been relatively healthy the last two seasons, hitting 23 home runs in 2015 while his OBP continues to decline, reaching .277.
Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs – $25 million
The 32-year old starting pitcher begins his second season with the Cubs after signing a six-year, $155 million contract when joining them in December 2014. It runs through 2020, which includes making $27.5 million in 2018 and 2019 before dropping to $20 million in 2020. There’s a $25 million team option for 2021, which becomes guaranteed with 200 innings in 2020 or 400 IP in 2019-20. Since 2008 Lester has pitched 200 innings or more in every season except for 2011.
Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels – $25 million
In 2015 Pujols made the All-Star game for the first time since making his Cardinals-Angels switch, hitting 40 home runs (best since 2010), although his batting average and OBP continued to drop, while his OPS was still below .800. The Angels have him on the books through the 2021 season, with his salary rising by $1 million each year until peaking at $30 million before he becomes a free agent in 2022. Pujols is 36.
CC Sabathia, New York Yankees – $25 million
The 35-year old one-time Cy Young winner and six-time All-Star had another rough season in 2015, with a 4.73 ERA through 29 starts, a 1.422 WHIP and his SO/W falling to just 2.74. This is the final guaranteed year on his contract, although the $25 million vesting option in 2017 depends on his health. If he does not end 2016 on the disabled list with a left shoulder injury. does not spend more than 45 days in 2016 on the disabled list with a left shoulder injury or does not make more than six relief appearances in 2016 because of a left shoulder injury it becomes guaranteed.
Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners – $25.857 million
King Felix will be celebrating his 30th birthday very soon, kicking off his 12th season in Seattle. He’s a Cy Young winner (2010) and six-time All-Star, starting 30 games or more 10 seasons in a row, while pitching over 200 innings eight consecutive seasons. His salary goes up by $1 million for the 2017 and 2018 seasons and another million for 2019. The 2020 season is a $1 million team option which the team may exercise if Hernandez spends more than 130 consecutive days on disabled list with right elbow surgery or other procedure to repair right elbow injury.
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers – $28 million
Cabrera did miss 43 games last season, but still picked up his sixth Silver Slugger award while making his 10th All-Star game. He was the AL batting champion, hitting .338 (4th time) and also had the best OBP for the fourth time with .440. He’s guaranteed through 2023, making $28 million in 2017, $30 million in 2018-2021 and $32 million on the final two years of the deal. There’s a $30 million vesting option for both 2024 and 2025, which vests if he’s in the top 10 of the MVP voting in 2023 and 2024.
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers – $28 million
Despite starting just 20 times and “making” the DL for the first time in his career, most of Verlander’s numbers were an improvement compared to his 2014 season. The 2011 AL MVP and six-time All-Star is signed through the 2019 season, making $28 million each year. The 2020 season has a $22 million vesting option, becoming guaranteed if he finished in the top 5 of the Cy Young voting in 2019.
Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers – $28.41 million
Hamilton was traded back to the Rangers last April and actually played in the postseason once again with the team he helped make two World Series not too long ago, hitting 8 home runs in 50 games, batting .253. Hamilton is due to make the same amount in 2017, although he can opt out of his deal at the end of the 2016 season. Just like last season, most of his salary is paid by the Angels: $26.41 million in both 2016 and in 2017.
David Price, Boston Red Sox – $30 million
Price begins his Red Sox tenure after signing a seven-year, $217 million deal following a second consecutive season with two teams, playing for the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays in 2015, making it to the ALCS. Price had his best season in terms of ERA with 2.45, the best in the American League. His contract is guaranteed through the 2022 season, making $30 million in each of the first three seasons, rising to $31 million in 2019 and then up to $32 million for the final three years of the contract. He can opt out following the 2018 season.
Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks – $34 million
Greinke took his fantastic seasons with the Dodgers (including a 1.74 ERA last season) and turned them into a six-year, $206.5 million contract with Arizona. His deal is fully guaranteed through 2021, making $34 million in 2017 and 2018 as well, then rising to $34.5 million in 2019 followed by $35 million in 2020 and 2021.
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers – $34.571 million
Kershaw was the ace when Greinke was with the Dodgers and leads by a little bit on this list too. The 28-year old, a three-time Cy Young winner and five-time All-Star, will make $35.571 million in 2017 and 2018, back down to $34.571 million in 2019 and $35.571 again in 2020. He can opt out following the 2018 season.