Highest-Paid MLB Player by Year (1874-2023)

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New York Mets starter Max Scherzer throws during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in Milwaukee.
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Rachael Millanta @rachaelmillanta Jan 06, 2023, 2:07 PM
  • The highest-paid MLB players in 2023 are Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.
  • They will each make a salary of $43,333,333 this season.
  • In 1874, the highest-paid player was Fergus Malone, whose salary was $2,800.

Baseball is an expensive business, and mega contracts via free agency are becoming more and more common, but just how much are the top players across the league pocketing each season?

Back in 1874, the highest-paid player in MLB was Fergus Malone of the Chicago White Stockings, whose salary of $2,800 would be equivalent to approximately $73,195.44 today. In 2023, New York Mets pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander top the list, each slated to earn $43.3 million this year. 

So from 1874 to now, who are the highest-paid players in MLB, and just how big are their checks?

Highest-Paid MLB Player by Year


1874Fergus MaloneChicago White Stockings$2,800
1875Rich HighamChicago White Stockings$2,200
1876Al SpaldingChicago White Stockings$4,000
1877Al SpaldingChicago White Stockings$2,900
1878Bob FergusonChicago White Stockings$3,700
1879Frank "Silver" FlintChicago White Stockings$1,800
1880Adrian AnsonChicago White Stockings$1,800
1881Jim O’RourkeBuffalo Bisons$2,000
1882Monte WardProvidence Grays$2,400
1883Buck EwingNew York Gothams$3,100
1884Buck EwingNew York Gothams$3,100
1885Jim O’RourkeNew York Giants$4,500
1886Fred DunlapSt. Louis Maroons/Detroit Wolverines$4,500
1887Fred DunlapDetroit Wolverines$4,500
1887Charles RadbournBoston Beaneaters$4,500
1888Fred DunlapPittsburgh Alleghenys $5,000
1888Buck EwingNew York Giants$5,000
1889Fred DunlapPittsburgh Alleghenys $5,000
1889Buck EwingNew York Giants$5,000
1890Hardy RichardsonBoston Reds$4,000
1891Paul CookLouisville Colonels/St. Louis Browns$2,000
1892Joe GunsonBaltimore Orioles$2,800
1893NO DATA--
1894NO DATA--
1895Jack GlasscockLouisville Colonels/Washington Senators$2,400
1896NO DATA--
1897NO DATA--
1898NO DATA--
1899Victor WillisBoston Beaneaters$1,800


1900NO DATA--
1901NO DATA--
1902NO DATA--
1903NO DATA--
1904Joe McGinnityNew York Giants$5,000
1905NO DATA--
1906Nap LajoieCleveland Naps$8,500
1907Nap LajoieCleveland Naps$8,500
1908Nap LajoieCleveland Naps$8,500
1909Nap LajoieCleveland Naps$9,000
1910Ty CobbDetroit Tigers$9,000
1910Nap LajoieCleveland Naps$9,000
1911Ty CobbDetroit Tigers$9,000
1911Nap LajoieCleveland Naps$9,000
1912Roger BresnahanSt. Louis Cardinals$10,000
1912Jimmy CallahanChicago White Sox$10,000
1912Hugh JenningsDetroit Tigers$10,000
1912Honus WagnerPittsburgh Pirates$10,000
1913Fred ClarkePittsburgh Pirates$15,000
1914Ty CobbDetroit Tigers$15,000
1914Tris SpeakerBoston Red Sox$15,000
1915Fred ClarkePittsburgh Pirates$15,050
1916Ty CobbDetroit Tigers$20,000
1917Ty CobbDetroit Tigers$20,000
1918Ty CobbDetroit Tigers$20,000
1919Ty CobbDetroit Tigers$20,000
1920Ty CobbDetroit Tigers$20,000
1920Babe RuthNew York Yankees$20,000
1920Tris SpeakerCleveland Indians$20,000
1921Ty CobbDetroit Tigers$25,000
1922Babe RuthNew York Yankees$52,000
1923Babe RuthNew York Yankees$52,000
1924Babe RuthNew York Yankees$52,000
1925Babe RuthNew York Yankees$52,000
1926Babe RuthNew York Yankees$52,000
1927Babe RuthNew York Yankees$70,000
1928Babe RuthNew York Yankees$70,000
1929Babe RuthNew York Yankees$70,000
1930Babe RuthNew York Yankees$80,000
1931Babe RuthNew York Yankees$80,000
1932Babe RuthNew York Yankees$75,000
1933Babe RuthNew York Yankees$52,000
1934Babe RuthNew York Yankees$35,000
1935Lou GehrigNew York Yankees$31,000
1936Mickey CochraneDetroit Tigers$36,000
1937Mickey CochraneDetroit Tigers$36,000
1937Lou GehrigNew York Yankees$36,000
1938Lou GehrigNew York Yankees$39,000
1939Lou GehrigNew York Yankees$35,000
1939Hank GreenbergDetroit Tigers$35,000
1940Hank GreenbergDetroit Tigers$35,000
1941Hank GreenbergDetroit Tigers$55,000
1942Joe DiMaggioNew York Yankees$43,750
1943Joe CroninBoston Red Sox$27,000
1944Joe CroninBoston Red Sox$27,000
1945Lou BoudreauCleveland Indians$25,000
1945Joe CroninBoston Red Sox$25,000
1946Hank GreenbergDetroit Tigers$55,000
1947Hal NewhouserDetroit Tigers$70,000
1948Joe DiMaggioNew York Yankees$65,000
1948Ted WilliamsBoston Red Sox$65,000
1949Joe DiMaggioNew York Yankees$100,000


1950Joe DiMaggioNew York Yankees$100,000
1951Joe DiMaggioNew York Yankees$90,000
1951Ted WilliamsBoston Red Sox$90,000
1952Ted WilliamsBoston Red Sox$85,000
1953Ted WilliamsBoston Red Sox$85,000
1954Ted WilliamsBoston Red Sox$85,000
1955Ted WilliamsBoston Red Sox$67,500
1956Yogi BerraNew York Yankees$58,000
1957Yogi BerraNew York Yankees$65,000
1958Mickey MantleNew York Yankees$65,000
1959Willie MaysSan Francisco Giants$75,000
1960Willie MaysSan Francisco Giants$80,000
1961Willie MaysSan Francisco Giants$85,000
1962Mickey MantleNew York Yankees$90,000
1962Willie MaysSan Francisco Giants$90,000
1963Willie MaysSan Francisco Giants$105,000
1964Willie MaysSan Francisco Giants$105,000
1965Willie MaysSan Francisco Giants$105,000
1966Sandy KoufaxLos Angeles Dodgers$130,000
1967Willie MaysSan Francisco Giants$125,000
1968Willie MaysSan Francisco Giants$125,000
1969Willie MaysSan Francisco Giants$135,000
1970Willie MaysSan Francisco Giants$135,000
1971Carl YastrzemskiBoston Red Sox$167,000
1972Carl YastrzemskiBoston Red Sox$167,000
1973Dick AllenChicago White Sox$200,000
1974Dick AllenChicago White Sox$250,000
1975Hank AaronMilwaukee Brewers$240,000
1976Hank AaronMilwaukee Brewers$240,000
1977Mike SchmidtPhiladelphia Phillies$560,000
1978Mike SchmidtPhiladelphia Phillies$560,000
1979Rod CarewCalifornia Angels$800,000
1980Nolan RyanHouston Astros$1,000,000
1981Dave WinfieldNew York Yankees$1,400,000
1982Mike SchmidtPhiladelphia Phillies$1,500,000
1983Mike SchmidtPhiladelphia Phillies$1,652,333
1984Mike SchmidtPhiladelphia Phillies$1,989,875
1985Mike SchmidtPhiladelphia Phillies$2,096,967
1986Jim RiceBoston Red Sox$1,964,423
1987Jim RiceBoston Red Sox$2,412,500
1988Ozzie SmithSt. Louis Cardinals$2,340,000
1989Orel HershiserLos Angeles Dodgers$2,766,667
1989Frank ViolaMinnesota Twins/New York Mets$2,766,667
1990Robin YountMilwaukee Brewers$3,200,000
1991Darryl StawberryLos Angeles Dodgers$3,800,000
1992Bobby BonillaNew York Mets$6,100,000
1993Bobby BonillaNew York Mets$6,200,000
1994Bobby BonillaNew York Mets$6,300,000
1995Cecil FielderDetroit Tigers$9,237,500
1996Cecil FielderDetroit Tigers$9,237,500
1997Albert BelleChicago White Sox$10,000,000
1998Gary SheffieldFlorida Marlins/Los Angeles Dodgers$14,936,667
1999Albert BelleBaltimore Orioles$11,949,794


2000Kevin BrownLos Angeles Dodgers$15,714,286
2001Alex RodriguezTexas Rangers$22,000,000
2002Alex RodriguezTexas Rangers$22,000,000
2003Alex RodriguezTexas Rangers$22,000,000
2004Alex RodriguezNew York Yankees$21,726,881
2005Alex RodriguezNew York Yankees$26,000,000
2006Alex RodriguezNew York Yankees$21,680,727
2007Jason GiambiNew York Yankees$23,428,571
2008Alex RodriguezNew York Yankees$28,000,000
2009Alex RodriguezNew York Yankees$33,000,000
2010Alex RodriguezNew York Yankees$33,000,000
2011Alex RodriguezNew York Yankees$32,000,000
2012Alex RodriguezNew York Yankees$30,000,000
2013Alex RodriguezNew York Yankees$29,000,000
2014Zack Greinke Los Angeles Dodgers$28,000,000
2015Clayton KershawLos Angeles Dodgers$31,000,000
2016Clayton KershawLos Angeles Dodgers$33,000,000
2017Clayton KershawLos Angeles Dodgers$33,000,000
2018Mike TroutLos Angeles Angels$34,083,333
2019Stephen StrasburgWashington Nationals$38,333,333
2020Mike TroutLos Angeles Angels$37,766,667
2021Mike TroutLos Angeles Angels$37,166,667
2022Max ScherzerNew York Mets$43,333,333
2023Max ScherzerNew York Mets$43,333,333
2023Justin VerlanderNew York Mets$43,333,333

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About the Author

Rachael Millanta

Read More @rachaelmillanta

Rachael Millanta is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM focusing on Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. Her work has been published in SB Nation, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Slackjaw Humor. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Rachael now resides in Chicago, Illinois.

Rachael Millanta is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM focusing on Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. Her work has been published in SB Nation, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Slackjaw Humor. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Rachael now resides in Chicago, Illinois.