Baseball has a new highest-paid player for 2018 and it's well-deserved

Big League Stew

Major League Baseball will have a new highest-paid player in 2018. It’s yet another honor for MLB’s most decorated player in recent years, who will see his salary get bumped by a whopping $14 million this year.

It’s Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels’ perennial MVP candidate, the consensus best player in baseball. Does he deserve the distinction of being baseball’s highest-paid player? You betcha. Trout has won two MVPs at age 26 and has finished no lower than fourth in the voting each year of his career.

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Trout will make $34.083 million this season, according to data from USA Today Sports, topping Clayton Kershaw, who has worn the salary crown the last two years. He earned $33 million in 2016 and 2017. Trout’s contract — a $144 million extension he signed with the Angels in 2014 — paid him $20.083 last season. Nice raise there.

Leading MLB’s highest-paid player list in 2018: Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. (AP)
Leading MLB’s highest-paid player list in 2018: Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. (AP)

Baseball has a history of paying players too much when they’re past their prime, which has everything to do with their contracts rules — players get lower salaries in their early season, which are sometimes their most productive, then they hit free agency around age 30. If a star player then signs a back-loaded, long-term deal, it’s evitable they’re getting overpaid in the twilight of their career.

We see some of that in this year’s 10 contracts, which will look like this barring any of the remaining free agents getting huge money. Again, from USA Today Sports:

1. Mike Trout ($34.083M)
2. Clayton Kershaw ($33.288M)
3. Zack Greinke ($31.954M)
4. Miguel Cabrera ($30M)
4. David Price ($30M)
6. Yoenis Cespedes ($29M)
7. Justin Verlander ($28M)
8. Jon Lester ($27.5M)
9. Albert Pujols ($27M)
10. Jason Heyward ($26.055M)

Trout and Kershaw are interesting cases in that they never hit free agency. They signed extensions with the teams that drafted them years before they could hit the open market, which means they’re the somewhat rare case where the best players are actually getting paid the most money.

If you look back at the top paid players over the past 15 years, you’ll see that’s not always the case:

2017: Clayton Kershaw ($33M)
2016: Clayton Kershaw ($33M)
2015: Justin Verlander ($28M)
2014: Zack Greinke ($26M)
2013: Alex Rodriguez ($28M)
2012: Alex Rodriguez ($29M)
2011: Alex Rodriguez ($32M)
2010: Alex Rodriguez ($33M)
2009: Alex Rodriguez ($33M)
2008: Alex Rodriguez ($28M)
2007: Jason Giambi ($23.4M)
2006: Alex Rodriguez ($21.6M)
2005: Alex Rodriguez ($26M)
2004: Manny Ramirez ($22.5M)
2003: Alex Rodriguez ($22M)

Congrats to Mike Trout, but as you can see, he has a long way to go before he’s making A-Rod money.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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