Major League Baseball (MLB) is one of the most popular and lucrative sports leagues in the world, attracting millions of fans and generating billions of dollars in revenue every year. But how much do the players who make up the league actually earn? How are their salaries determined and distributed? And who are the highest-paid players in the game?
In this article, we will explore these questions and more, using data from various sources to provide a comprehensive overview of MLB player salary by average, minimum, and maximum. We will also look at some of the factors that influence player salaries, such as experience, position, talent, team, and market. Finally, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about MLB player salary.
Average MLB Player Salary 2023
The average salary of all MLB players was $4.41 million, an increase from $4.17 million in 2021. However, player salaries vary drastically based on experience and which team a player plays for. For example, the average salary of a Pittsburgh Pirates player was $2.19 million, whereas the average salary for a New York Yankees player was $8.49 million.
The average salary of MLB players is also influenced by the competitive balance tax (CBT), which is a soft cap that imposes a tax on teams whose total payroll exceeds a certain threshold. The CBT threshold was $210 million in 2021 and increased to $230 million in 2022. Teams that exceed the threshold have to pay a percentage of their excess payroll as a tax, which increases with each consecutive year that they are over the limit. The CBT is designed to promote competitive balance and discourage excessive spending by teams.
MLB Minimum Salary 2023
The minimum salary that a player could be paid was $700,000 in 2022, an increase from $570,500 in 2021. The minimum salary is set by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between MLB and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA), which is the union that represents all MLB players. The CBA also determines other aspects of player compensation, such as arbitration, free agency, bonuses, benefits, and pensions.
Most players who have not yet reached three years of experience are paid the league minimum since these players have no negotiation power over their contracts. This accounts for a majority of players, as 63.2% of MLB players make the league minimum, which is by far the most of any of the four major sports leagues in North America.
MLB Player Maximum Salary
There is no official maximum salary that a player can earn in MLB, as there is no hard salary cap like there is in other leagues such as the NBA, NFL, and NHL. However, there are some practical limitations that prevent players from earning astronomical amounts, such as market demand, team budget, player performance, injury risk, and CBT implications.
The highest-paid player in MLB in 2022 was Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros, who earned $43.33 million. Verlander signed a two-year extension with the Astros in 2019 that paid him $66 million over 2020 and 2021. However, he only pitched one game in 2020 due to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He missed the entire 2021 season as he recovered from the surgery and became a free agent after the season ended.
The highest-paid position player in MLB in 2022 was Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees, who earned $40 million. Judge signed a record-breaking 10-year contract extension with the Yankees in 2021 that paid him $325 million over 2022-2031. Judge had a stellar season in 2021, hitting .287 with 39 home runs and 98 RBIs while leading the Yankees to the wild card game.
Factors Influencing Player Salary
As we have seen, there are many factors that influence how much a player earns in MLB. Some of these factors are:
- Experience: Players with more experience tend to earn more than players with less experience, as they have more leverage and bargaining power over their contracts. Players with less than three years of experience are usually paid the league minimum or close to it. Players with more than three but less than six years of experience are eligible for arbitration, which allows them to negotiate a higher salary based on their performance and comparable players. Players with six or more years of experience are eligible for free agency, which allows them to sign with any team that offers them the best deal.
- Position: Players who play certain positions tend to earn more than players who play other positions, as some positions are more scarce and valuable than others. For example, pitchers tend to earn more than position players, as pitching is considered the most important and difficult skill in baseball. Within pitchers, starters tend to earn more than relievers, as starters pitch more innings and have more impact on the game. Within position players, catchers tend to earn more than other infielders, as catchers have more defensive responsibilities and wear and tear on their bodies. Outfielders tend to earn more than infielders, as outfielders have more offensive potential and athleticism.
- Talent: Players who have more talent tend to earn more than players who have less talent, as talent is the main determinant of player performance and value. Talent can be measured by various statistics and metrics, such as batting average, home runs, RBIs, ERA, strikeouts, WAR, OPS, etc. Players who excel in these categories tend to earn more than players who do not, as they contribute more to their team’s success and attract more fan interest and revenue.
- Team: Players who play for certain teams tend to earn more than players who play for other teams, as some teams have more financial resources and willingness to spend than others. Teams that play in large markets with high revenues and fan bases tend to pay their players more than teams that play in small markets with low revenues and fan bases. Teams that are competitive and contend for championships tend to pay their players more than teams that are rebuilding and developing young talent. Teams that are under the CBT threshold tend to pay their players more than teams that are over the CBT threshold, as they avoid the tax penalty and have more flexibility.
- Market: Players who sign contracts in certain years tend to earn more than players who sign contracts in other years, as the market conditions vary from year to year. The market conditions depend on factors such as supply and demand, inflation, revenue growth, CBA changes, etc. For example, players who signed contracts in 2021 benefited from a strong market that saw record-breaking deals for several players. Players who signed contracts in 2020 suffered from a weak market that saw reduced spending and activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Q: How do MLB players get paid?
- A: MLB players get paid biweekly during the regular season, which lasts from April to September. They receive 24 paychecks per year, each covering a two-week period. They do not get paid during the offseason or spring training. They also do not get paid during the postseason, but they receive a share of the postseason revenue pool based on how far their team advances.
- Q: How do MLB players pay taxes?
- A: MLB players pay taxes based on their income and residency status. They pay federal income tax at the highest marginal rate of 37%, plus state and local taxes depending on where they live and where they play. They also pay a “jock tax” which is a tax imposed by states and cities on visiting athletes who earn income within their jurisdiction.
- Q: How do MLB players get bonuses?
- A: MLB players can receive bonuses for various reasons, such as signing a contract, reaching certain performance milestones, making the All-Star team, winning awards, etc. Bonuses are usually negotiated as part of the contract terms and are paid separately from the regular salary. Bonuses are also subject to taxes and CBT calculations.
- Q: How do MLB players get endorsements?
- A: MLB players can get endorsements from various companies and brands that want to use their name, image, likeness, or voice to promote their products or services. Endorsements can be in the form of commercials, advertisements, appearances, social media posts, etc. Endorsements are usually arranged by the player’s agent or manager and are paid separately from the regular salary. Endorsements are also subject to taxes but not CBT calculations.