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MLB Payrolls & the Playoffs

The Red Sox carry the highest payroll and the best record. This is the 2nd straight year that will be the case, but it’s been quite a different story in recent years prior…

2018 - Red Sox, 1st
2017 - Dodgers, 1st
2016 - Cubs, 5th
2015 - Cardinals, 12th
2014 - Angels, 7th


Current Playoff Teams vs. 2018 Payroll

Boston, 1st
Dodgers, 3rd
Chicago Cubs, 4th
NY Yankees, 6th
Houston, 9th
Colorado, 13th
Cleveland, 14th
Atlanta, 18th
Milwaukee, 22nd
Oakland, 28th

Related: 2018 MLB Payroll Tracker 


The Current Award Candidates & Their Contract Status

NL Cy Young:
Max Scherzer is an anomaly, as his $30M AAV is 6th in all of baseball, 4th among SPs, yet he’s the 24th best value pitcher in baseball, and a 34-year-old work horse…He still has $150M guaranteed remaining on his contract which runs through 2021.

Jacob deGrom is a victim of being late to the party. He was 26 years old when he first hit the big leagues, and still has 2 eligible years of arbitration remaining. His $7.4M salary for 2018 ranks 40th among starting pitchers, while his 1.77 ERA ranks first - by a lot. He carries a $31M+ market value into the winner, and is a major trade candidate…

Aaron Nola is on his way to being a very rich man, but it might take awhile. The 25-year-old will be arbitration eligible for the 1st time in 2019, meaning he’s not eligible for free agency until 2022. It’s likely the Philies look to lock him in before that, but his $30M+ valuation already won’t make it easy…

AL Cy Young
Blake Snell (and the Rays as a whole) took a lot of people by surprise in 2018. The 25-year-old is running away with this award statistically, posting a 1.90 ERA, .96 WHIP, 21-5 record, and 210+ Ks, all in 175 IP. He’s under team contract again in 2019 before his arbitration years kick in from 2020-2022. Tampa isn’t known for paying pitchers, so keep an eye on Snell in on the trade market in a year or two…

Corey Kluber has arguably one of the best value deals in all of baseball as the Indians locked him into a 5 year, $38.5M contract back in 2015 that includes club options in 2020 & 2021. The 32-year old is set to earn $10.5M, $15M, $15.5M, & $16M over the next 4 seasons, while carrying a valuation of $33.6M…

It can be argued that Chris Sale’s current contract is even a step more team-friendly than Kluber’s as Sale is just 29 years old and will make $12.5M this year and $15M next year before become free agent eligible. Injuries probably take Sale out of the CY Young race in 2018, but he might have a World Series ring to replace that…

The Marlins traded Christian Yelich and his extremely team-friendly contract to the Brewers this summer, and let’s just say he’s responded well to it. The 26-year old is on pace for 200 hits, 35 doubles, 35 homers, 110 RBIs, and a .320/.390/.970 split. He’s hit for the cycle twice and has been a MAJOR reason that the Brewers are likely on their way to the postseason. He’s locked in through 2022, with just $51M to be made in that span…

Javy Baez is a jack of all trades for the Cubs, but in 2018, he’s also their leading hitter. The 25-year old will post 40 doubles 35 HRs, 110+ RBIs, and a near .300/330/.900 split. A BIG step forward from his recent years, and maybe a sign that he’s officially broken out to his potential. Scary news for non-Cubs fans going forward. Contractually, Baez will become arbitration eligible in 2019, so his salaries will be tempered through 2021.

Matt Carpenter had a miserable start to 2018. Matt Carpenter will finish 2018 with 40+ doubles, 35+ homers, 80+ RBIs, and a .900+ OPS. He’s the definition of “value to a team” as a disheveled Cardinals went from rock bottom, to postseason contention In a matter of weeks. Carpenter is set to earn $33M over the next two seasons before becoming free agent eligible.

Mookie Betts needed a big 2018 to make up for what was a subpar 2017 campaign by his standards, and he’s responded brilliantly. The 25-year old will post nearly 50 doubles, 30+ homers, 80+ RBIs, 30 SBs, and a .340/.430/1.000 split. Eye-popping 5-tool production. He’s eligible for arbitration both in 2019, & 2020, but Boston might look to buy those years out with a more long-term contract this winter. His current valuation stands right at $30M.

It took until the middle of February for J.D. Martinez to lock in his 5 year, $110M deal (which can actually be a 2 year, $47.5M deal with options) with the Red Sox, and by all accounts, he’s already out-performed it. He followed up a 26 double, 45 HR, 104 RBI, .303/.376/1.066 2017 with a whopping 36 double, 41 HR, 124 RBI, .328/.400/1.024 2018 thus far. He’s one of the most productive players in all of baseball, and a major reason the Red Sox were that much better in 2018.

Mike Trout missed a bunch of games in 2018 due to injury, and it’s likely the only reason he’s not on top of this list right now. As per usual, Trout was loading up the stat sheets for the Angels, and will still wind up with 25+ doubles, 40 HRs, 80+ RBIs, and a .315/.460/1.1 split. He’s set to earn almost $100M over the next 3 seasons, but it’s very possible the Angels look to tack on a new extension that could approach $40M per year…he’s worth every dollar.

The Rookies
Ronald Acuna (ATL) & Juan Soto (WAS) won’t make much more than the league minimum over the next three seasons, but each appear to be two of the games most elite hitters, at just 20 & 19 years of age respectively. Soto may be pressed into a major role next year should Bryce Harper leave town, while Acuna has a strong core of young studs around him to keep him secure. Both won’t be free agent eligible until 2024.

Miguel Andujar was the piece the Yankees didn’t realize they needed until they got him. The 23-year old has been the most consistent batter in a loaded Bombers lineup, and will finish with 40+ doubles, 25+ HRs, 90 RBIs, and a near .300/330/.850 split. Not bad for a guy who bats 6th most nights…He’s under team control for two more years, meaning near-minimum salaries, and continued huge value for the Yankees.

The Ohtani dual-threat show ended about as quickly as many expected, but his continued success at the plate keeps hope alive that this kid is a really special star in the making. His mix of power, speed, baseball smarts, and clutch hitting (not to mention a legitimate top of the rotation pitcher) will make him must-see-tv once he’s able to return from Tommy John.


PlayerPosTeam2018 Average Salary$ Rank
(SP or Batters)
Free Agent
Jacob deGrom SP NYM $7,400,000 42 2021
Max Scherzer SP WAS $30,000,000 4 2022
Aaron Nola SP PHI $573,000 123 2022
Matt Carpenter  1B STL $8,666,667 82 2021
Javier Baez 2B CHC $657,000 336 2022
Christian Yelich OF MIL $7,081,429 99 2023
Blake Snell SP TB $558,200 136 2023
Corey Kluber  SP CLE $7,700,000 40 2022
Chris Sale SP BOS $6,500,000 48 2020
Mookie Betts OF BOS $10,500,000 69 2021
J.D. Martinez  DH BOS $22,000,000 13 2023
Mike Trout OF LAA $24,083,333 5 2021