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Some of the best players in Major League Baseball (MLB) sign million-dollar deals once they are eligible for free agency, the point at which players are allowed to negotiate contracts with any team in the league. Many players make more moderate salaries compared to their peers, but Hall of Famers make much more.
Just how much money do the best players who were in today’s game make? In the last five years, 11 players have been inducted into MLB’s Hall of Fame. The average career earnings of those players were $142,245,411. The table below shows the breakdown of each player’s career earnings.
|David Ortiz||$ 159,512,500|
|Derek Jeter||$ 265,159,364|
|Larry Walker||$ 110,466,931|
|Roy Halladay||$ 148,991,666|
|Edgar Martinez||$ 49,479,368|
|Mike Mussina||$ 144,533,619|
|Mariano Rivera||$ 169,441,825|
|Vladimir Guerrero||$ 125,541,455|
|Trevor Hoffman||$ 80,309,000|
|Chipper Jones||$ 168,552,133|
|Jim Thome||$ 142,711,667|
Although these are the most recent Hall of Famers, many of today’s current baseball players have surpassed the career earnings of each player above.
The Career Earnings of MLB’s Current Stars
Baseball players must meet several requirements to make it onto the Hall of Fame ballot, including having been retired for at least five years. That means the current stars in MLB will have to wait awhile for their official call to Cooperstown. However, there are a few current players who have already earned a rightful place among the all-time greats.
Five of those players are sure to wrap up their careers soon: Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, and Clayton Kershaw. All combined, these five players have played 91 seasons and earned nearly $1.5 billion over their career. On average, these players have earned $287,623,998.
|Albert Pujols||$ 339,210,741|
|Miguel Cabrera||$ 321,023,111|
|Justin Verlander||$ 274,588,222|
|Zack Greinke||$ 251,955,276|
|Clayton Kershaw||$ 251,342,641|
The Career Earnings of MLB’s First Hall of Famers
MLB’s first Hall of Fame class was in inducted in 1936. Of course, these players were not earning millions of dollars in their time. Babe Ruth is known as the best player in baseball history, and he earned $856,850 across 22 seasons. Even if we were to convert his earnings to the equivalent amount in 2021, the Great Bambino would’ve made $13,840,618.
12 players were inducted during the first five years of the Hall of Fame. Here’s how their actual career earnings break down compared to what their earnings would be worth today.
|Year||Name||Actual Earnings||2021 Earnings|
|1936||Ty Cobb||$ 491,233||$ 8,668,904|
|1936||Walter Johnson||$ 219,250||$ 4,103,962|
|1936||Christy Mathewson||$ 57,000||$ 1,591,626|
|1936||Babe Ruth||$ 856,850||$ 13,840,618|
|1936||Honus Wagner||$ 134,550||$ 3,674,715|
|1937||Nap Lajoie||$ 127,100||$ 3,530,775|
|1937||Tris Speaker||$ 322,000||$ 5,519,279|
|1937||Cy Young||$ 16,230||$ 480,976|
|1938||Pete Alexander||$ 178,900||$ 2,971,028|
|1939||Eddie Collins||$ 269,700||$ 4,668,163|
|1939||Willie Keeler||$ 28,200||$ 832,978|
|1939||George Sisler||$ 167,100||$ 2,583,462|
The first players inducted into the Hall of Fame played baseball over a century ago. The game and the world are much different now than it was when Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Cy Young played. Back then, a Hall of Famer would make $239,009 in their career. Today, those earnings would be equivalent to $4,372,207 today.
The Expected Career Earnings of MLB’s Up and Coming Players
One thing that makes MLB very different from other professional sports in the United States is that players’ contracts are fully guaranteed. If a team and a player agree to a contract, the team must pay the player regardless of whether the player performs poorly or he sustains a long-term injury.
For example, Fernando Tatis Jr. was 22 years old when he signed a 14-year, $340 million contract in 2021. Although he will start the season on the injured list because he broke his wrist in a motorcycle accident in the offseason, his team still has to pay his full salary.
Tatis and the other players listed below are not in the Hall of Fame yet. Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are looking like Hall of Fame players, but they’re still in the middle of their careers. The others still have a lot to prove before they can be considered, but they are still earning some of the largest contracts in baseball’s history.
|Current Age||Name||Guaranteed Earnings|
|21||Wander Franco||$ 109,140,901|
|23||Fernando Tatis Jr.||$ 161,474,185|
|27||Corey Seager||$ 287,690,784|
|29||Bryce Harper||$ 322,479,629|
|30||Mike Trout||$ 444,890,125|
Is the MLB player with the most career earnings in the Hall of Fame?
Surprisingly, no. Alex Rodriguez earned $455,159,552 in 22 big league seasons, but he was suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs during his playing career. Steroid use has kept Rodriguez and many other players out of the Hall of Fame.