MLB Money v. NBA Money

I know this topic has been discussed often, but after the Phillies gave A.J. Burnett 16 million dollars yesterday I felt the need to chime in.  Sorry I’m not sorry.

I’m a capitalist like most rational humans.  So when I see someone like Robinson Cano sign a 240 million dollar contract I don’t think to myself, “what an asshole!  Nobody needs that kind of money.”  If some owner is willing to pay him that kind of coin to play baseball Cano would be a fool not to take it.  Being a capitalist though does not stop me from shaking my head at the unfathomable stupidity of MLB owners who throw cash, or “fun coupons” as Leo calls them in Wolf of Wall Street at aging players each off season.

Is it necessary for MLB to pay someone to create a logo each year for an event that is nothing more than a bunch of old white dudes hanging around a hotel lobby?

The 2013/2014 MLB off season was no different.  Once again baseball’s winter meetings, which should really be called the Imbecile’s Auction, kicked off the spending spree.  The aforementioned Cano ditched his previous agency to sign on with rookie agent Jay-Z.  In most situations choosing the inexperienced and rudimentarily trained person over the experienced and properly educated individual would be deemed unwise.  But that isn’t the case with MLB players, their agents, and the owners with whom they negotiate their contract.  MLB contract negotiations are so easy that Jay-Z was able to get the Seattle Mariners to offer a 30 year old Cano the 3rd highest (10 years 240 million) paying contract of all time, behind Alex Rodriguez’s two contracts and Joey Votto’s.  Cano’s decision was roughly the equivalent of O.J. passing on Cochran, Shapiro, and Bailey for Knight, Dre, Dogg & Death Row Associates.  But since this is MLB, where rational thought is suspended, Cano’s pockets didn’t suffer at all from his decision to go with the infant sports agency.

Actual footage of owners and GMs trying to be the first to negotiate with Jason Vargas

The exorbitant spending didn’t end with Cano.  Big market owners were trampling over one another for the opportunity to give guys like Jacoby “Day-to-Day” Ellsbury and Brian “Sore Back” McCann 8 figure deals.  The St Louis Cardinals front office, who is probably the best in baseball, gave Jhonny Peralta a 4 year 53 million dollar deal.  The same Jhonny Peralta who accepted a 50 game suspension last year, and is now one Adderall away from a 100 game suspension.  Even the typically frugal Minnesota Twins got in on the spending this off season leading to the following headlines below.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 5.29.14 PM

If you are having trouble reading the screen shot the two headlines with the arrows read, “Twins sign Nolasco to record contract” and “Twins sign innings-eating Ricky Nolasco to four-year $49 million deal.”  Nolasco’s career ERA is 4.37 and he has only eclipsed 200 innings twice in his 8 year career.  Despite those numbers Nolasco will be paid more this year than 2X NBA All-Star Joakim Noah and only $100,000 less than Serge Ibaka, who is arguably the second best player on the team with the best record in the NBA.

The NBA certainly has its share of bad contracts floating out there, I’m looking at you Josh Smith, but the number of bad MLB contracts far outnumber the number of bad NBA contracts.  Seven of the highest paid players this off-season are Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, Brian McCann, Shin Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, and A.J. Burnett.  Here is where those seven players would rank among the top NBA contracts.

The MLB contracts are what the average yearly salary will be over the life of the contract.

Rank    Name      Team   2013-14
1 Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers $30,453,805
2 Robinson Cano Seattle Mariners $24,000,000
3 Jacoby Ellsbury New York Yankees $21,800,000
4 Dirk Nowitzki Dallas Mavericks $22,721,381
5 Amar’e Stoudemire New York Knicks $21,679,893
6 Joe Johnson Brooklyn Nets $21,466,718
7 Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks $21,388,953
8 Dwight Howard Houston Rockets $20,513,178
9 Pau Gasol Los Angeles Lakers $19,285,850
10 Chris Bosh Miami Heat $19,067,500
11 LeBron James Miami Heat $19,067,500
12 Dwyane Wade Miami Heat $18,673,000
13 Chris Paul Los Angeles Clippers $18,668,431
14 Shin Soo Choo Texas Rangers $18,600,000
15 Deron Williams Brooklyn Nets $18,466,130
16 Zach Randolph Memphis Grizzlies $18,238,333
17 Rudy Gay Sacramento Kings $17,888,932
18 Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder $17,832,627
19 Derrick Rose Chicago Bulls $17,632,688
20 Brian McCann New York Yankees $17,000,000
21 Blake Griffin Los Angeles Clippers $16,441,500
22 A.J. Burnett Philadelphia Phillies $16,000,000
23 Paul Pierce Brooklyn Nets $15,333,334
24 Carlos Boozer Chicago Bulls $15,300,000
25 Curtis Granderson New York Mets $15,000,000
26 Carlos Beltran New York Yankees $15,000,000
27 LaMarcus Aldridge Portland Trail Blazers $14,878,000
28 Marc Gasol Memphis Grizzlies $14,860,523
29 Brook Lopez Brooklyn Nets $14,693,906
30 Kevin Love Minnesota Timberwolves $14,693,906
31 Russell Westbrook Oklahoma City Thunder $14,693,906
32 Emeka Okafor Phoenix Suns $14,487,500
33 Roy Hibbert Indiana Pacers $14,283,844
34 Eric Gordon New Orleans Pelicans $14,283,844
35 Luol Deng Cleveland Cavaliers $14,275,000
36 Tyson Chandler New York Knicks $14,100,537
37 Danny Granger Indiana Pacers $14,021,788
38 Andrew Bogut Golden State Warriors $14,000,000
39 David Lee Golden State Warriors $13,878,000
40 James Harden Houston Rockets $13,701,250
41 Al Jefferson Charlotte Bobcats $13,500,000
42 Josh Smith Detroit Pistons $13,500,000
43 Ben Gordon Charlotte Bobcats $13,200,000
44 Nene Washington Wizards $13,000,000
45 Andre Iguodala Golden State Warriors $12,868,632
46 Tony Parker San Antonio Spurs $12,500,000
47 Kevin Garnett Brooklyn Nets $12,433,735
48 Serge Ibaka Oklahoma City Thunder $12,350,000
49 Nikola Pekovic Minnesota Timberwolves $12,100,000
50 David West Indiana Pacers $12,000,000
51 Al Horford Atlanta Hawks $12,000,000
52 Kris Humphries Boston Celtics $12,000,000
53 Rajon Rondo Boston Celtics $11,954,545
54 Andrea Bargnani New York Knicks $11,862,500
55 Tyreke Evans New Orleans Pelicans $11,796,247
56 Nicolas Batum Portland Trail Blazers $11,295,250
57 Joakim Noah Chicago Bulls $11,100,000

Where those seven players place on the above list is preposterous when you think of their value to their team compared to the NBA players on the list.  Kevin Durant, the league MVP right now, will be making less money than Shin Soo Choo.  Choo, a fine player, has never made a single all-star appearance, let alone challenge for an MVP.  According to his bio on the Texas Rangers website he did win the MLBPAA Indians Heart and Hustle Award in 2010.  So there is that.  Furthermore, it isn’t likely fans will be streaming into Rangers Ballpark in Arlington this summer to watch Shin Soo Choo patrol left field.  Plenty of fans do make their way to the basketball arenas around the country to see Kevin Durant when he comes to town.   I also can’t help but think of the joke Bill Simmons’ friend and frequent podcast guest Jack-O always says about doubting Player X will ever be someone he’ll discuss while bouncing his grandkids on his knee.  I’m confident in saying Shin Soo Choo qualifies as someone who I’ll never discuss with my future grandchildren.  Kevin Durant is an entirely different story.

This coming weekend is NBA All-Star Weekend, and I’d venture to guess there will be a number baseball players in attendance despite pitchers and catchers having reported to camp this week.  That photo above is something you’re much more likely to see at a basketball game than a baseball game.  So how is it that over the hill baseball talents like A.J. Burnett make roughly the same money as 4X All-Star Blake Griffin.  It’s an answer that continues to escape me.  Here’s one more chart to illustrate the difference between MLB money and NBA money, the top 50 highest paid players in MLB.

Rank Name Team 2014 Salary
1 Zack Greinke Los Angeles Dodgers $26,000,000
2 Cliff Lee Philadelphia Phillies $25,000,000
3 Ryan Howard Philadelphia Phillies $25,000,000
4 Prince Fielder Texas Rangers $24,000,000
5 Robinson Cano Seattle Mariners $24,000,000
6 Cole Hamels Philadelphia Phillies $23,500,000
7 Mark Teixeira New York Yankees $23,125,000
8 C.C. Sabathia New York Yankees $23,000,000
9 Joe Mauer Minnesota Twins $23,000,000
10 Albert Pujols Los Angeles Angels $23,000,000
11 Felix Hernandez Seattle Mariners $22,857,142
12 Miguel Cabrera Detroit Tigers $22,000,000
13 Masahiro Tanaka New York Yankees $22,000,000
14 Adrian Gonzalez Los Angeles Dodgers $21,857,142
15 Matt Kemp Los Angeles Dodgers $21,250,000
16 Jacoby Ellsbury New York Yankees $21,142,857
17 Carl Crawford Los Angeles Dodgers $21,107,142
18 Matt Cain San Francisco Giants $20,833,333
19 Jayson Werth Washington Nationals $20,571,428
20 David Wright New York Mets $20,000,000
21 Justin Verlander Detroit Tigers $20,000,000
22 Adam Wainwright St Louis Cardinals $19,500,000
23 Mark Buehrle Toronto Blue Jays $19,000,000
24 Josh Hamilton Los Angeles Angels $17,400,000
25 Josh Beckett Los Angeles Dodgers $17,000,000
26 Matt Holiday St Louis Cardinals $17,000,000
27 Adrian Beltre Texas Rangers $17,000,000
28 Tim Lincecum San Francisco Giants $17,000,000
29 Brian McCann New York Yankees $17,000,000
30 C.J. Wilson Los Angeles Angels $16,500,000
31 Jered Weaver Los Angeles Angels $16,200,000
32 Troy Tulowitzki Colorado Rockies $16,000,000
33 Hanley Ramirez Los Angeles Dodgers $16,000,000
34 Jose Reyes Toronto Blue Jays $16,000,000
35 Aramis Ramirez Milwaukee Brewers $16,000,000
36 Ian Kinsler Detroit Tigers $16,000,000
37 Hunter Pence San Francisco Giants $16,000,000
38 Mike Napoli Boston Red Sox $16,000,000
39 Hiroki Kuroda New York Yankees $16,000,000
40 A.J. Burnett Philadelphia Phillies $16,000,000
41 John Lackey Boston Red Sox $15,950,000
42 Anibal Sanchez Detroit Tigers $15,800,000
43 John Danks Chicago White Sox $15,750,000
44 Max Scherzer Detroit Tigers $15,525,000
45 Andre Ethier Los Angeles Dodgers $15,500,000
46 David Ortiz Boston Red Sox $15,500,000
47 Jhonny Peralta St Louis Cardinals $15,500,000
48 Nick Markakis Baltimore Orioles $15,350,000
49 Yadier Molina St Louis Cardinals $15,200,000
50 Adam Dunn Chicago White Sox $15,000,000
51 Nick Swisher Cleveland Indians $15,000,000
52 Chase Utley Philadelphia Phillies $15,000,000
53 Carlos Beltran New York Yankees $15,000,000

Baseball money is in a totally different stratosphere than basketball money.  And yet the NBA players are the ones always starring in the commercials.  Again the disparity in compensation escapes me.  This season the Yankees will pay $74,000,000 between their three off-season additions (Tanaka, McCann, Beltran) if you include the $20,000,000 posting fee the Yankees paid in order to negotiate with Tanaka.  The entire NBA champion Miami Heat’s payroll this season is $81,328,143.  With the more modest numbers it’s much easier for the Heat organization to earn a profit each year opposed to the baseball teams that spend well into the hundreds of millions.

There are 19 players in baseball who will make more money than Lebron James this year.  That list includes Masahiro Tanaka, Adrian Gonzalez, and Jayson Werth.  And earning just $67,500 less than Lebron James, the innings-eating emperor Mark Buehrle.

One guy did this last night.  Take notice of the clock.  That’s to go along with 2 NBA titles, 2 NBA Finals MVP awards, 4 league MVP awards, and 10 All-Star appearances.

The other guy’s career accolades include, 1 World Series title, 4 All-Star appearances, 4 Gold Gloves, 1 no-hitter, and 1 perfect game.

Buehrle has had a very successful MLB career, but he is getting paid roughly the same as Lebron James, who may very well go down as the greatest player of all time when his career ends.

So keep shelling out them ducats MLB owners!  But know this, you could be spending a lot less owning an NBA team and getting to watch athletes like Lebron James on a nightly basis as opposed to paying Andre Ethier 15 million bucks to pick peanuts out of his ass in the dugout.

All salary numbers courtesy of and so thanks guys.


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