Which MLB Players Banking $20 Million Are Worth Their Salaries?

By Kiran Dhillon

20 Major League Baseball players will make $20 million this season.

That’s a colossal salary for even the best athletes, so it’s reasonable to expect (their managers certainly must) that the best-paid players hit it out of the park, literally and figuratively, every game.

But they don’t.

Research engine FindTheBest calculated which players are earning their salaries (and which aren’t) by measuring their Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a statistic that measures a player’s worth in terms of the number of wins they contribute to the team’s record.

For a quick view of which players with $20 million salaries are performing best and which are performing worst, see the scatterplot below. Each dot represents an individual player, with the stronger players on the right, and the weaker ones on the left.

For a more detailed breakdown by player, see the list below. Green means the player is an asset to their team (WAR 1 to 4), yellow means they’re an average performer (.0 to .9), and red means they might do less damage sitting on the bench than up at bat (.-1 to -1.5 to).

Note that seven players who make $20 million (Zack Greinke, Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Justin Verlander, Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, and CC Sabathia) are pitchers. Since many pitchers aren’t strong hitters, and FindTheBest measured offesnsive WAR-a stat to measure offensive worth-they’ve been excluded from the list.

#1 Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners

WAR: 3.57

Salary: $24 million

Position: Second baseman

#2 Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

WAR: 2.85

Salary: $22 million

Position: First baseman

#3 Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels

WAR: 2.44

Salary: $23 million

Position: First baseman

#4 Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees

WAR: 2.41

Salary: $21 million

Position: Center fielder

#5 David Wright, New York Mets

WAR: 2.24

Salary: $20 million

Position: Third baseman

#6 Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals

WAR: 2.04

Salary: $20 million

Position: Right fielder

#7 Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers

WAR: 1.3

Salary: $21 million

Position: First baseman

#8 Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees

WAR: 1.06

Salary: $22.5 million

Position: First baseman

#9 Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins

WAR: .66

Salary: $23 million

Position: First baseman

#10 Carl Crawford, Los Angeles Dodgers

WAR: .28

Salary: $20 million

Position: Left fielder

#11 Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers

WAR: -.27

Salary: $24 million

Position: First baseman

#12 Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies

WAR: -.47

Salary: $25 million

Position: First baseman

#13 Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers

WAR: -1.37

Salary: $21 million

Position: Left fielder