Grading The MLB Players With The 10 Highest Salaries In 2022
Does salary determine value? Many MLB players get paid well, but that doesn't mean they are helping their team win games.
The ten highest-paid MLB players will make at least $34 million in 2022. Needless to say, that is a lot of money! Could a high salary be detrimental to a team?
Let's dive in and see what factors determine a player's salary and value to their teams.
Wins Above Replacement (WAR)
WAR is one of the best ways to estimate a player's performance over a year. WAR measures a player's value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he's worth than a replacement-level player at the same position. WAR quantifies each player's value in terms of a specific number of wins. And because WAR factors in a positional adjustment, it is well suited for comparing players with different defensive positions.
Who is the most valuable player in 2022 alone? Let's look at a combination of player salaries and their value to the organization. To estimate this, take the highest-paid MLB players and divide them by wins above replacement (WAR).
This approach determines their salary per WAR. It's not a perfect system, but it provides good insight into the top performers.
Salary / WAR Grades
To estimate how much value an organization gets from their highest-paid MLB players this year, divide the player's salary by their WAR in 2022 (as of August 5, 2022). This exercise determines how much value a player brings to their team this year.
- A Grade: <$10 million
- B Grade: $10 - $20 million
- C Grade: $20 - $30 million
- D-F Grades: > $30 million or Negative WAR
10 Highest-Paid MLB Players
1. Max Scherzer, New York Mets
At 37 years old, Max Scherzer signed a massive 3-year, $130 million contract to play with the New York Mets. Up to this point, Scherzer has delivered on his contract for the first-place Mets despite missing several starts with an oblique injury. Only time will tell if this contract will still be worth it as Scherzer approaches 40 when many pitchers begin to break down.
Salary: $43.3 million
2022 WAR: 3.4
$/WAR: $12.7 million
2. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Mike Trout may be one of the best baseball players of all time. He is also an excellent example of how difficult it is to win in baseball without a solid supporting cast. Between 2012 and 2019, Trout had a WAR of at least 6.9, leading his teams to approximately seven wins per year or more than an average player. Trout only played in one postseason during that period and didn't make it out of the first round.
Salary: $37.1 million
$/WAR: $9.51 million
3. Anthony Rendon, Los Angeles Angels
Rendon significantly contributed to the Washington National's 2019 World Series title. He then cashed in with the Los Angeles Angels, who gave him a guaranteed 7-year, $245 million contract. The Angels will pay Rendon nearly 40 million dollars annually through 2026. Despite his hefty paycheck, he has battled injuries the past two seasons, playing only 58 games in 2021 and 45 in 2022.
Salary: $36.5 million
$/WAR: $45.6 million
4. Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees
After being a relatively average pitcher for the first five years of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole had two incredible seasons with the Houston Astros that turned into the largest contract in history for a pitcher. Since joining the Yankees, Cole has pitched well, leading the American League (AL) in wins in 2021. In addition, Cole leads the AL in strikeouts this year despite a relatively low WAR.
Salary: $36 million
$/WAR: $21.4 million
5. Jacob deGrom, New York Mets
Jacob deGrom may have the best stuff in the game over the last eight years. He won back-to-back Cy Young awards in 2018 and 2019 and had a historic 2021 season with a 1.08 ERA through 15 starts. However, deGrom's most significant issue has been injuries over the past two seasons. As a result, he's only thrown five innings in 2022, which is the reason for his low WAR despite his talent. deGromm is getting ready to come off the injured list and still has time to contribute this year to a first-place Mets team.
Salary: $36 million
$/WAR: $180 million
6. Trevor Bauer, Los Angeles Dodgers
Trevor Bauer is one of the most controversial players in baseball. Nobody doubts his outstanding talent on the mound. However, in 2021 he was accused of sexual assault against his former girlfriend and is currently serving a two-year suspension from baseball. Technically, Bauer's salary in 2022 is $0 since he's not getting paid during his suspension. He is eligible to play again in 2024.
Salary: $35.3 million
7. Carlos Correa, Minnesota Twins
Carlos Correa spent his first seven years in the MLB playing for the Houston Astros before landing with the Minnesota Twins in 2022. Correa was part of the Astros teams that made it to three World Series and won one in 2017. Correa is coming off his best season yet in 2021 and is doing almost as well in 2022 for the Twins.
Salary: $35.1 million
$/WAR: $14.6 million
8. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
After an incredible 2019 season helping the Nationals win a World Series, Stephen Strasburg has thrown a mere 31.1 innings over the past three seasons due to injuries. Strasburg is an elite talent even as he approaches his mid-30s. We can only hope that Strasburg can get healthy again. Not only for himself but also for the Nationals, who are in full rebuild mode and are set to pay him $35 million annually until 2026.
Salary: $35 million
$/WAR: -116.6 million
9. Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals
Nolan Arenado currently ranks top five in WAR ratio in all of baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals are notorious for making great trades and signings, which has kept them competitive for the past two decades. However, the Arenado trade in 2021 may be one of their best yet. Arenado is one of the best defensive third basemen in the game, possibly of all time. With the Cardinals in a battle for first place in the National League (NL) Central, his 5.4 WAR may be the most valuable in all baseball.
Salary: $35 million
$/WAR: $6.5 million
10. Francisco Lindor, New York Mets
Francisco Lindor is in the first year of a massive contract that will pay him $34.1 million until he is 37 years old in 2031. Fortunately for the Mets, Lindor is off to a great start in his initial contract year. He's a big reason the Mets are in first place in the NL East. Lindor played his first five seasons with the Cleveland Indians before moving to the Big Apple.
Salary: $34.1 million
$/WAR: $9.0 million
Summary of Highest-Paid MLB Players
The lesson for the MLB general managers is to know that you'll get the best of your star players in the first few years of their contract. Eventually, age and injuries tend to catch up with players, and the back half of contracts don't always look as good. That doesn't mean a player's long contract is a bust; it might just mean they are not delivering value in 2022.
All salary information in this post is courtesy of Spotrac, and all other baseball-related statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference.
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