Mega MLB deals means five teams will spend more on their top two players in 2020 than some clubs pay entire roster


Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros pitches during Game 1 of the 2019 World Series between the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 in Houston, Texas.

Cooper Neill | Getty Images

Five Major League Baseball teams are set to spend more on their top two players next season than some ball clubs spend on their entire 26-man roster with several star players winning record contract deals at the MLB’s winter meetings in San Diego this week.

With pitcher Gerrit Cole reportedly agreeing to a 9-year contract worth a whopping $324 million and reigning World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg landing a 7-year deal valued at $245 million, the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals will be doling out more for their top two players than some teams spend on their entire 26-man team.

The Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are the other three teams paying top dollar for their two highest-paid players.

Cole’s contract, which was agreed to during the MLB winter meetings, would make his deal the fourth-largest in MLB history — just behind Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton’s 13-year, $325 million contract.

The deal pays Cole an average of $36 million a year, the highest average annual payout in the MLB, according to Spotrac.

The average annual value of Cole’s contract, combined with Stanton’s 2020 salary of $26 million next year, comes to more than the Baltimore Orioles’ $59 million payroll for all of its 26 players next year, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Baseball Prospectus. It also exceeds the payroll for the Miami Marlins, which stands at $58 million. The figures reflect opening day payrolls as of Thursday afternoon.

With pitcher Strasburg staying with the Nationals, the team will be spending even more than the Yankees on its top two highest-paid players. Strasburg agreed to a $245 million, 7-year deal, which comes to an average of $35 million per year.

Combined with pitcher Max Scherzer’s 2020 salary of $35.9 million, the Nationals are spending about $71 million between the two players. That exceeds the 26-man opening day payroll of the Orioles, Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Rays and Pirates will both spend about $65 million for all of its 26 players next year.

The Angels made a free agency splash of their own this week with third baseman Anthony Rendon, agreeing to a 7-year deal worth $245 million. The contract pays an average of $35 million a year, but just $25.5 million in 2020, according to the Associate Press. He’ll receive as much as $38 million in later years. Rendon won’t even be the highest-paid player on the team. That distinction goes to Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, who will make $37.7 million and $29 million, respectively, in 2020.

The specifics of Strasburg and Cole’s contracts and annual salaries have not been officially announced or confirmed yet. The Astros and Red Sox will spend $68 million and $62 million, respectively, on their two highest-paid players in 2020, according to the Baseball Prospectus data.

As of 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, the Yankees’ 26-man opening day payroll was just over $232 million, which positions the Yankees as the highest-paid team for 2020 thus far. To be sure, team spending could rise even more as clubs finish filling out their rosters ahead of spring training. In 2019, the Yankees had the second-highest team payroll coming in at almost $204 million, behind only the Boston Red Sox.

According to its website, Baseball Prospectus tracks “Major League contracts, bonuses, service time and franchise values” and that its information is unofficial and “collected from published reports and sources in and around the game.” Until official annual salary numbers are released by the teams, Baseball Prospectus uses average annual value as a placeholder, spokesman Jeff Euston said in an email.

-CNBC’s Jabari Young contributed to this report.

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