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2019's highest-paid player may surprise you

@SlangsOnSports
March 3, 2019

Bryce Harper and Manny Machado just broke the $300 million threshold for total value on free-agent contracts, but neither has the highest individual salary for the 2019 season. In fact, the highest-paid player this season will be Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg, one of six starting pitchers in the top 10

Bryce Harper and Manny Machado just broke the $300 million threshold for total value on free-agent contracts, but neither has the highest individual salary for the 2019 season. In fact, the highest-paid player this season will be Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg, one of six starting pitchers in the top 10 in '19 salary. Here's a look at the top 10, which looks solely at '19 salary, as opposed to the average annual value of their deal, because not every contract pays the same amount in every season.

1) Stephen Strasburg, RHP, WSH: $38.3 million
Full contract:
7 years, $175 million (2017-23)
Strasburg is entering the third year of a seven-year extension he signed during the 2016 season. His '19 salary is the second-largest single-season sum within the contract, as he’s slated to make $45 million in the final year of the deal in '23 -- though he also has opt-outs after '19 and '20. Strasburg was limited to 130 innings in '18 with right shoulder injuries, but is a Cy Young Award-caliber pitcher when healthy.

2) Max Scherzer, RHP, WSH: $37.4 million
Full contract:
7 years, $210 million (2015-21)
Scherzer is entering the fifth year of a seven-year contract he signed with the Nationals entering the 2015 season. He’s due to make at least $30 million in each of the final three seasons of the deal, beginning with '19. Scherzer has been an All-Star in each of his first four seasons with the Nats, and has already won two National League Cy Young Awards with the club, bringing his career total to three. In '18, he struck out 300 batters for the first time in his career.

3) Zack Greinke, RHP, ARI: $34.5 million
Full contract:
6 years, $206.5 million (2016-21)
This will be the fourth year of a six-year contract Greinke signed as a free agent with the D-backs after opting out of his Dodgers contract following 2015. After posting the second-worst ERA of his career (4.37) in '16 in his first season with Arizona, he returned to All-Star form in the two seasons since. Greinke has won a Gold Glove Award in each of his three seasons with the D-backs (and his final two with the Dodgers, too).

4) Mike Trout, CF, LAA: $34.1 million
Full contract:
6 years, $144.5 million (2015-20)
Trout is entering the fifth year of a six-year extension with the Angels. During the life of the contract, he’s finished outside the top two in American League MVP Award voting just once -- when he finished fourth in 2017 when he played in 114 games due to injury. Trout has been an All-Star in each of the four previous years of the deal -- and was an All-Star in his three full seasons prior to 2015, too. He had a career-high 1.088 OPS in '19 and had his third season with 10-plus bWAR ('12, '16).

5) David Price, LHP, BOS: $31 million
Full contract:
7 years, $217 million (2016-22)
This deal once looked like one Boston would regret, but Price redeemed himself with a stellar 2018 postseason to help the Red Sox win their fourth World Series title of the century, posting a 1.98 ERA in 13 2/3 innings in the Fall Classic. He is entering the fourth year of a seven-year deal he signed prior to the '16 season. Price actually had an opt-out after the '18 season, but elected to remain with the club and will make $31 million this season. He’ll make $32 million in the final three years of the deal, after '19.

6) Clayton Kershaw, LHP, LAD: $31 million
Full contract:
3 years, $93 million (2019-21)
Remember when it looked as if Kershaw might join the free-agent market this winter? Back in November, he signed a three-year contract extension with the Dodgers instead of opting out of the seven-year, $215 million deal that he’d originally signed in 2013. Kershaw has won three NL Cy Young Awards and an NL MVP Award during his career, though '18 was the first time since '10 that he did not receive NL Cy Young Award votes. He had finished top five in each season from '11-17.

7) Miguel Cabrera, 1B, DET: $30 million
Full contract:
8 years, $248 million (2016-23; 2024-25 vesting options)
Cabrera is entering the fourth year of an eight-year contract. He played in a career-low 38 games in 2018, when he suffered a season-ending ruptured biceps tendon in his left arm soon after returning from an early-season hamstring strain. A two-time AL MVP Award winner, Cabrera received votes as recently as 2016, which was the final year of a seven-year All-Star streak.

8) Yoenis Céspedes, LF, NYM: $29 million
Full contract:
4 years, $110 million (2017-20)
Cespedes re-signed with the Mets as a free agent following the 2016 season, which was also the last time he played in 100 games in a season. During the first two years of the new contract, he’s been limited to just 119 games total due to injuries, including each hamstring, his right hip flexor and twin heel calcifications. It’s unknown when Cespedes will return from his heel surgeries this season, though the All-Star break seems like a semi-reasonable estimate.

9) Justin Verlander, RHP, HOU: $28 million
Full contract:
7 years, $180 million (2013-19)
Believe it or not, Verlander is entering the final year of a seven-year extension he initially signed with the Tigers. The deal had a 2020 vesting option for a '19 top-five AL Cy Young Award finish, but the Astros voided that option when they acquired him in '17. Verlander finished second to Blake Snell in the '18 AL Cy Young Award voting and has received votes in each of the past three seasons. His 2.52 ERA in '18 was the second best of his career.

10) Albert Pujols, 1B/DH, LAA: $28 million
Full contract:
10 years, $240 million (2012-21)
This will be the eighth year of a 10-year deal Pujols signed as a free agent before the 2012 season. His salary has risen each season of the deal, and will culminate with $30 million in '21. Pujols has received at least one MVP Award vote twice during the life of the contract, in '12 and '14. He’s been an All-Star once with the Angels, after making eight straight All-Star teams from '03-10 with the Cardinals, and another in '01.

Sarah Langs is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @SlangsOnSports.