Bauer tops '21's list of highest-paid players

February 5th, 2021

Trevor Bauer is now a Los Angeles Dodger -- and he’s a much wealthier man, too. 

The top free-agent pitcher of the 2020-21 offseason announced Friday that he has chosen the Dodgers as his next team, and’s Mark Feinsand reports that his deal is worth $102 million across the next three seasons. The pact will reportedly pay Bauer $40 million in ‘21, a salary that not only makes him MLB’s highest-paid player this year, but also sets a record for the highest single-year salary for any player in baseball history. Bauer will then earn an unprecedented $45 million in ‘22.

Bauer is the latest marquee arm to land an all-time megadeal, following in the recent footsteps of Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom and Stephen Strasburg. In fact, pitchers make up seven of this year’s top 10 slots in terms of salary. Here is a look at that top 10, based solely upon 2021 salary as opposed to the average annual value of the deal, because not every contract pays the same amount in every season.

The source for the salary info is Cot's Baseball Contracts, at Baseball Prospectus. Please note that you will see slight discrepancies at various sites that report salary info due to how they account for things like signing bonuses and deferred payments.

1) , RHP, LAD: $40 million
Full contract:
3 years, $102 million (2021-23)

Bauer picked the perfect time to submit a career-best season in the abbreviated 2020 campaign, capturing the National League Cy Young Award after posting a 1.73 ERA and 100-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 73 innings. In his final start of the regular season, he threw eight innings of one-run ball and struck out 12 to pitch the Reds into the playoffs. He followed up with 12 more strikeouts across 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Braves in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series.

That positioned Bauer as far and away the best available starting pitcher on this winter’s free-agent market, and he was able to draw deep-pocketed teams in the defending World Series champion Dodgers and the Mets (under new owner Steve Cohen) to the negotiating table. In the end, the Southern California native chose to return home and pitch for the NL West powerhouse, giving the Dodgers an incredible rotation topped by Bauer, Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and David Price.

2) , CF, LAA: $37.1 million
Full contract:
12 years, $426.5 million (2019-30)

Trout signed an extension with the Angels prior to the 2019 season, replacing the final two years of his existing contract. His current deal was the first -- and still only -- $400 million contract in baseball history. His first two years under the new contract yielded an AL MVP Award in 2019 and another top-five finish in ‘20. Trout is an eight-time All-Star, three-time MVP and has finished top-five in MVP voting in all nine full seasons of his career. He entered 2021 with 74.6 career WAR, per Baseball-Reference, which ranked 52nd all-time among position players, just ahead of Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson (74.0).

3-T) , RHP, NYY: $36 million
Full contract:
9 years, $324 million (2020-28)

Cole netted the largest total contract given to any pitcher in history thanks to a pair of lights-out seasons with the Astros -- the latter of which saw him lead the Majors with 326 strikeouts as he went 20-5 for the 2019 AL pennant winners. Cole’s pinstripes debut was only slightly less dominant and cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, but he still placed fourth in AL Cy Young Award voting after recording a 2.84 ERA and striking out nearly one-third of the batters he faced.

3-T) , RHP, NYM: $36 million
Full contract:
5 years, $137.5 million (2019-23)

deGrom continued to hold serve for the title of best pitcher on planet Earth in 2020, ramping his fastball velocity up to triple digits for the first time in his career at age 32. While he came up just shy in his quest for a third consecutive NL Cy Young Award, deGrom still led the Senior Circuit with 104 strikeouts while battling through minor neck and back injuries.

5-T) , 3B, STL: $35 million
Full contract:
8 years, $260 million (2019-26), plus 1 year, $15 million (2027)

The winter was a momentous one for Arenado, as many months of trade rumors finally resulted in a blockbuster swap in which the Rockies sent the eight-time Gold Glove Award winner to the Cardinals in exchange for southpaw Austin Gomber and four Minor League prospects. The Rockies reportedly sent more than $50 million to the Cardinals as part of the trade, and a large portion of that money will cover all of Arenado’s 2021 salary. His contract still contains opt-outs after the ‘21 and ‘22 seasons.

5-T) , RHP, WSH: $35 million
Full contract:
7 years, $245 million (2020-26)

Strasburg parlayed a 2019 postseason for the ages (which included a World Series MVP) into a massive payday, opting out of his prior seven-year, $175 million deal with the Nats and ultimately signing a new seven-year pact with the club that drafted him first overall in 2009. Unfortunately the injury bug bit Strasburg again in his first year under the new deal, as carpal tunnel neuritis in his right pitching arm limited him to only two abbreviated starts and then necessitated surgery in ‘20. He’s expected to be back at full strength in ‘21.

7) , RHP, WSH: $34.5 million
Full contract:
7 years, $210 million (2015-21)

A three-time Cy Young Award winner and one of MLB’s ultimate competitors, Scherzer finally captured his long-awaited World Series title with the Nationals in 2019. This year marks the last of the landmark free-agent deal -- one of the most productive in history -- that Scherzer signed with Washington in January 2015, meaning he is set to become a free agent again after the ‘21 season if he and the Nats do not agree to an extension. Scherzer’s performance dipped slightly during the abbreviated ‘20 season (3.74 ERA), though he still racked up 92 strikeouts in 67 ⅓ innings.

8) , 3B, SD: $34 million
Full contract:
10 years, $300 million (2019-28)

Machado briefly made history by signing that $300 million megadeal before it was soon surpassed by Bryce Harper’s $330 million free-agent contract with the Phillies, and Machado’s deal includes a $2 million share of his signing bonus that is allocated to each year of his deal. While Machado struggled (at least, by his standards) in his San Diego debut, he surged back as an NL MVP Award candidate in 2020, bashing 16 homers and posting a .950 OPS in 60 games for a thrilling Padres club that made its first postseason appearance in 14 years.

9) , RHP, HOU: $33 million
Full contract:
2 years, $66 million (2020-21)

Verlander signed this two-year extension with the Astros prior to the 2019 season, tacking on two more years after his prior deal. He made just one start in 2020, due to injury, and ultimately underwent Tommy John Surgery. He’s expected to miss the 2021 season while recovering from the surgery, which he had at the end of September. Verlander, who turns 38 in February, has had a decorated 16-year career which includes eight All-Star selections, two Cy Young Awards, a Rookie of the Year Award and an MVP. He won the 2017 World Series with the Astros.

10) , RHP, HOU: $32.9 million
Full contract:
6 years, $206.5 million (2016-21)

While Verlander will likely sit out 2021, the other half of Houston’s high-priced pitching tandem is set to motor on. Greinke, who arrived in Houston at the 2019 July Trade Deadline via a swap from the D-backs (the team that signed him to this deal), was quietly excellent last year in Verlander’s absence. At age 36, Greinke did not miss a turn in the rotation and finished with MLB’s sixth-best FIP at 2.80, signifying he was better than his 4.03 ERA showed. The wily veteran was one reason why the Astros made a surprise run to Game 7 of the ‘20 ALCS, including a gutty six-inning, two-run performance against the Rays in a win-or-go-home Game 4 of that series.