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Mailbag: The 100 Players Making the Highest Percentage of Team Payroll

Posted by Neil Paine on July 7, 2011

Today, we had a question from Jesse:

"As the trade deadline draws closer, I started to think of just how much money guys really make. I was watching a Phillies-Marlins game and watched Hanley Ramirez loaf it down the line and strike out with a chance to win the game, my dad remarked [to] me that he must make a big percentage of the payroll on that team. It got me thinking, what guy takes the biggest chunk out of the payroll? It's a little unfair, considering A-Rod's $32,000,000 contract would leave about $4,000,000 left for the entire rest of the roster for the Royals. But, with my informal research, I got it down to Todd Helton, Travis Hafner, and Carlos Lee. Yikes. Is there any way to figure this out with B-R?"

You can't find it with the current site tools, but I compiled the data from the USA Today Salary Database, and was able to put together this list (based on Opening Day payrolls and rosters):

Rank Player Team Salary Team Payroll Pct
1 Carlos Lee Houston Astros $19,000,000 $70,694,000 26.9%
2 Travis Hafner Cleveland Indians $13,000,000 $49,190,566 26.4%
3 Todd Helton Colorado Rockies $20,275,000 $88,148,071 23.0%
4 Ichiro Suzuki Seattle Mariners $18,000,000 $86,524,600 20.8%
5 Joe Mauer Minnesota Twins $23,000,000 $112,737,000 20.4%
6 Hanley Ramirez Florida Marlins $11,000,000 $56,944,000 19.3%
7 Miguel Cabrera Detroit Tigers $20,000,000 $105,700,231 18.9%
8 Vernon Wells Los Angeles Angels $26,187,500 $138,543,166 18.9%
9 Johan Santana New York Mets $21,644,707 $118,847,309 18.2%
10 Prince Fielder Milwaukee Brewers $15,500,000 $85,497,333 18.1%
11 Michael Young Texas Rangers $16,174,974 $92,299,264 17.5%
12 Derek Lowe Atlanta Braves $15,000,000 $87,002,692 17.2%
13 Jayson Werth Washington Nationals $10,571,428 $63,856,928 16.6%
14 Heath Bell San Diego Padres $7,500,000 $45,869,140 16.4%
15 Carlos Beltran New York Mets $19,325,436 $118,847,309 16.3%
16 Chipper Jones Atlanta Braves $14,000,000 $87,002,692 16.1%
17 Francisco Cordero Cincinnati Reds $12,125,000 $75,947,134 16.0%
18 Zack Greinke Milwaukee Brewers $13,500,000 $85,497,333 15.8%
19 Alex Rodriguez New York Yankees $32,000,000 $202,689,028 15.8%
20 Barry Zito San Francisco Giants $18,500,000 $118,198,333 15.7%
Rank Player Team Salary Team Payroll Pct
21 Grady Sizemore Cleveland Indians $7,666,666 $49,190,566 15.6%
22 Matt Holliday St. Louis Cardinals $16,317,774 $105,433,572 15.5%
23 Jason Bay New York Mets $18,125,000 $118,847,309 15.3%
24 Alfonso Soriano Chicago Cubs $19,000,000 $125,047,329 15.2%
25 Adrian Beltre Texas Rangers $14,000,000 $92,299,264 15.2%
26 Carlos Zambrano Chicago Cubs $18,875,000 $125,047,329 15.1%
27 Brandon Phillips Cincinnati Reds $11,437,500 $75,947,134 15.1%
28 Milton Bradley Seattle Mariners $13,000,000 $86,524,600 15.0%
29 Ryan Ludwick San Diego Padres $6,775,000 $45,869,140 14.8%
30 Ryan Zimmerman Washington Nationals $9,025,000 $63,856,928 14.1%
31 Chris Snyder Pittsburgh Pirates $6,250,000 $45,047,000 13.9%
31 Paul Maholm Pittsburgh Pirates $6,250,000 $45,047,000 13.9%
33 Albert Pujols St. Louis Cardinals $14,508,395 $105,433,572 13.8%
34 Josh Johnson Florida Marlins $7,750,000 $56,944,000 13.6%
35 Chris Carpenter St. Louis Cardinals $14,259,403 $105,433,572 13.5%
36 Felix Hernandez Seattle Mariners $11,700,000 $86,524,600 13.5%
37 Torii Hunter Los Angeles Angels $18,500,000 $138,543,166 13.4%
38 Justin Morneau Minnesota Twins $15,000,000 $112,737,000 13.3%
39 Johnny Damon Tampa Bay Rays $5,250,000 $41,053,571 12.8%
40 Jose A. Bautista Toronto Blue Jays $8,000,000 $62,567,800 12.8%
Rank Player Team Salary Team Payroll Pct
41 Fausto Carmona Cleveland Indians $6,287,500 $49,190,566 12.8%
42 Jake Peavy Chicago White Sox $16,000,000 $127,789,000 12.5%
43 Rafael Furcal Los Angeles Dodgers $13,000,000 $104,188,999 12.5%
44 Nick Markakis Baltimore Orioles $10,600,000 $85,304,038 12.4%
45 Javier Vazquez Florida Marlins $7,000,000 $56,944,000 12.3%
46 Carlos Guillen Detroit Tigers $12,922,231 $105,700,231 12.2%
47 Justin Verlander Detroit Tigers $12,850,000 $105,700,231 12.2%
48 David Wright New York Mets $14,250,000 $118,847,309 12.0%
49 CC Sabathia New York Yankees $24,285,714 $202,689,028 12.0%
50 Tim Lincecum San Francisco Giants $14,000,000 $118,198,333 11.8%
51 B.J. Upton Tampa Bay Rays $4,825,000 $41,053,571 11.8%
52 Jason Marquis Washington Nationals $7,500,000 $63,856,928 11.7%
53 Brian Roberts Baltimore Orioles $10,000,000 $85,304,038 11.7%
54 Aramis Ramirez Chicago Cubs $14,600,000 $125,047,329 11.7%
55 Kosuke Fukudome Chicago Cubs $14,500,000 $125,047,329 11.6%
56 Ryan Howard Philadelphia Phillies $20,000,000 $172,976,379 11.6%
56 Roy Halladay Philadelphia Phillies $20,000,000 $172,976,379 11.6%
58 Kyle Lohse St. Louis Cardinals $12,187,500 $105,433,572 11.6%
59 Ryan Doumit Pittsburgh Pirates $5,200,000 $45,047,000 11.5%
60 Aaron Rowand San Francisco Giants $13,600,000 $118,198,333 11.5%
Rank Player Team Salary Team Payroll Pct
61 Ben Zobrist Tampa Bay Rays $4,687,300 $41,053,571 11.4%
62 Mark Teixeira New York Yankees $23,125,000 $202,689,028 11.4%
63 Victor Martinez Detroit Tigers $12,000,000 $105,700,231 11.4%
64 Jorge de la Rosa Colorado Rockies $10,000,000 $88,148,071 11.3%
65 Brett Myers Houston Astros $8,000,000 $70,694,000 11.3%
66 Hiroki Kuroda Los Angeles Dodgers $11,765,724 $104,188,999 11.3%
67 Aaron Cook Colorado Rockies $9,875,000 $88,148,071 11.2%
68 Randy Wolf Milwaukee Brewers $9,500,000 $85,497,333 11.1%
69 Lyle Overbay Pittsburgh Pirates $5,000,000 $45,047,000 11.1%
70 Joakim Soria Kansas City Royals $4,000,000 $36,126,000 11.1%
71 Chone Figgins Seattle Mariners $9,500,000 $86,524,600 11.0%
72 Adam LaRoche Washington Nationals $7,000,000 $63,856,928 11.0%
73 Mark Buehrle Chicago White Sox $14,000,000 $127,789,000 11.0%
74 Kelly Johnson Arizona Diamondbacks $5,850,000 $53,639,833 10.9%
75 Ryan Dempster Chicago Cubs $13,500,000 $125,047,329 10.8%
76 Scott Rolen Cincinnati Reds $8,166,666 $75,947,134 10.8%
77 Wandy Rodriguez Houston Astros $7,500,000 $70,694,000 10.6%
78 Ricky Nolasco Florida Marlins $6,000,000 $56,944,000 10.5%
79 Dan Uggla Atlanta Braves $9,146,942 $87,002,692 10.5%
80 Josh Beckett Boston Red Sox $17,000,000 $161,762,475 10.5%
Rank Player Team Salary Team Payroll Pct
81 Jason Kendall Kansas City Royals $3,750,000 $36,126,000 10.4%
82 James Shields Tampa Bay Rays $4,250,000 $41,053,571 10.4%
83 Tim Hudson Atlanta Braves $9,000,000 $87,002,692 10.3%
84 Joe Saunders Arizona Diamondbacks $5,500,000 $53,639,833 10.3%
85 Francisco Rodriguez New York Mets $12,166,666 $118,847,309 10.2%
86 Bronson Arroyo Cincinnati Reds $7,666,666 $75,947,134 10.1%
87 Joe Nathan Minnesota Twins $11,250,000 $112,737,000 10.0%
88 John Lackey Boston Red Sox $15,950,000 $161,762,475 9.9%
89 Alex Rios Chicago White Sox $12,500,000 $127,789,000 9.8%
90 Hunter Pence Houston Astros $6,900,000 $70,694,000 9.8%
91 Joey Votto Cincinnati Reds $7,410,655 $75,947,134 9.8%
92 Chris B. Young Arizona Diamondbacks $5,200,000 $53,639,833 9.7%
93 Billy Butler Kansas City Royals $3,500,000 $36,126,000 9.7%
94 Josh Hamilton Texas Rangers $8,750,000 $92,299,264 9.5%
95 Magglio Ordonez Detroit Tigers $10,000,000 $105,700,231 9.5%
96 Paul Konerko Chicago White Sox $12,000,000 $127,789,000 9.4%
96 Adam Dunn Chicago White Sox $12,000,000 $127,789,000 9.4%
98 Michael Cuddyer Minnesota Twins $10,500,000 $112,737,000 9.3%
99 Jose Reyes New York Mets $11,000,000 $118,847,309 9.3%
100 Roy Oswalt Philadelphia Phillies $16,000,000 $172,976,379 9.2%

41 Responses to “Mailbag: The 100 Players Making the Highest Percentage of Team Payroll”

  1. Baseball: Players Making the Highest Percentage of Team Payroll » Stathead » Blog Archive Says:

    [...] Players Making the Highest Percentage of Team Payroll: Neil Paine of B-R lists the players whose salaries represent the biggest chunks of their teams’ payrolls. [...]

  2. Doug B Says:

    Billy Butler makes the list! and yet he would be one of the lowest paid Yankees.

  3. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    The A's are the only team not represented on Neil's list.

  4. Neil Paine Says:

    Right, the A's highest-paid Opening Day players were David DeJesus, Josh Willingham, and Mark Ellis (who is no longer with the club). Each stood to make $6,000,000 this year, or 9.0% of Oakland's $66,536,500 payroll.

  5. Jeremy Says:

    I was actually quite surprised to see the first Red Sox player (Beckett) at #80 on the list....although I assume both Crawford and AGon will be ahead of him next season.

  6. Yippeeyappee Says:

    Yikes. The Mets have 50% of their salary tied up to three players.

  7. kenh Says:

    Amazing stat. At least 7 of the top 10 players are having below average years and/or are injured. Makes one wonder is it worth it to sign a player who is going to take up a significant chunk of the payroll. Maybe owners will learn something by looking at the top 10...nah.

  8. El Dandy Says:

    I believe the Mets have the most players on this list, which is fitting. It's ridiculous that the six players on this list comprise 81.3% of the Mets' total payroll.

  9. stan cook Says:

    Carlos Lee!!

  10. BSK Says:

    D'Backs have 3 guys making up 31%.
    Braves have 4 guys making up 44%.
    Orioles have 2 guys making up 24%.
    Red Sox have 2 guys making up 20%.
    Cubs have 5 guys making up 75%.
    White Sox have 5 guys making up 51%.
    Reds have 5 guys making up 62%.
    Indians have 3 guys making up 55%.
    Rockies have 3 guys making up 46%.
    Tigers have 5 guys making up 65%.
    Marlins have 4 guys making up 46%.
    Astros have 4 guys making up 49%.
    Royals have 3 guys making up 33%.
    Angels have 2 guys making up 32%.
    Dodgers have 2 guys making up 24%.
    Brewers have 3 guys making up 45%.
    Twins have 4 guys making up 53%.
    Mets have 6 guys making up 81%.
    Yankees have 3 guys making up 39%.
    Phillies have 3 guys making up 32%.
    Pirates have 4 guys making up 50%.
    Padres have 2 guys making up 31%.
    Giants have 3 guys making up 39%.
    Mariners have 4 guys making up 60%.
    Cardinals have 4 guys making up 54%.
    Rays have 4 guys making up 46%.
    Rangers have 3 guys making up 42%.
    Blue Jays have 1 guy making up 13%.
    Nationals have 4 guys making up 53%.

    I'm not sure what any of this means, but I found it interesting. Oddly enough, when I got to the Braves and saw that they were pretty strong outliers among the first handful of teams, I thought, "Wow... 44%!" Then I hit some of the teams further down the list who blew them right out of the water!

  11. BSK Says:

    It'd be interesting to compare this to the percentage of a team's WAR these guys individually or collectively account for.

  12. El Dandy Says:

    And it's of course worth noting that the biggest albatross on the Mets hasn't appeared in a game since last September.

  13. El Dandy Says:

    @11: I was just doing that for my Mets for 2011:

    Hitters: Total WAR: 11.5
    Jose Reyes: 4.1 (1st, 35% of WAR)
    Carlos Beltran: 2.7 (2nd, 23% of WAR)
    Jason Bay: 0.9 (5th, 7.8% of WAR)
    David Wright: 0.8 (7th, 7% of WAR)
    Collectively: 72.8% of WAR

    Pitchers: Total WAR: 9.9
    Francisco Rodriguez: 1.1 (5th overall, 11% of WAR)
    Johan Santana: 0.0 (n/a, 0% of WAR)

    If I'm doing the math right, then technically the overall production of these guys allows for their huge contracts, but this is largely because Reyes, and to a lesser extent Beltran, are playing out of their minds.

  14. Pageup Says:

    I'd estimate half of those guys are underachieving, weren't worth (Jason being one) it in the first place, or have been or are currently injured and under performing because of that. The owners simply should have no complaints for anyone else but each other...

  15. Mike Says:

    Big name missing for Boston: Carl Crawford.

  16. Mike Says:

    I'm wrong, Crawford does not belong on your list. Sorry!!!!!!

  17. jiffy Says:

    So 64.4% of the Cubs payroll is Fukudome, Soriano, Ramirez, Dempster, and Zambrano. Nice to have that quantified. It would be close to 75% if including Carlos Pena. Disgusting.

  18. John Q Says:


    Oliver Perez should be on this list because the Mets are paying him $12 million dollars this year.

    That Carlos Lee contract is just terrible and mind-boggling. Why did hell did the Astros give an over 30 defensively challenged LF/DH a 6 year $100 million dollar contract?

  19. Andy Patton Says:

    all hail Milton Bradley and Chone Figgins! Mariners are kicking themselves hard right now i'm sure..

  20. Steve Says:

    Just another reminder that these guys all make way too much money.Sorry,the gravy train is going to be derailing soon.

  21. Chris Says:

    Evan Longoria? Tulo?

  22. Chris Says:

    Also, Dejesus makes 6 million for Oakland. He should be on the list, for sure.

  23. Who earns the highest percentage of his team’s payroll? | HardballTalk Says:

    [...] at the Baseball-Reference blog, Neil Paine has listed the top 100 salaries as a percentage of a team’s payroll, and Lee holds an edge over Travis Hafner for first [...]

  24. BSK Says:


    Why is that? They make what the market bears. MLB is doing just fine. The gravy train just keeps on chugging along.

  25. Hartvig Says:

    Chris @ 21 Evan Longoria made 2 million in 2011 & Troy Tulowitzki made 5.5 million; both comfortably below the 9.2% of team payroll it would take to make this list.

  26. Steve Says:

    24 You know,I actually have agreed with that argument for years.The numbers seem to be getting more and more obscene though.All the sports I loved as a kid are now over expanded,under talented,overpaid collections of men making exorbitant amounts of money.Just my opinion.What I meant by the gravy train derailing is that tough economic times are coming to America no matter what we do.People are not going to have the disposeable income to pour into sports(not too mention numerous other entertainment options).

  27. Randy Says:

    I know this is way off topic, but a game a few days ago between the Tigers and Angels seems pretty unique to me. The Verlander - Haren battle was a great game and got me wondering. Verlander was only 1 out away from finishing the game (before he got tossed). When is the last time both teams only used 1 pitcher in a 9-inning game? Is there a way to use Play Index to find this? I would love to see the number of such games each year (or decade) over history.

  28. Steve Says:

    27 Used to be quite commmon,we called them "pitching duels".You know back in the day when a starter was expected to pitch a complete game,before managers and coaches had to justify their existences(and high salaries) with pitch counts and use of numerous specialists from the bullpen.Just joking sorta.

  29. Randy Says:

    @ 28 - I know what you mean. I was just thinking that this happens so rarely these days, that the Verlander-Haren duel was quite something.

  30. Mustachioed Repetition Says:

    .The numbers seem to be getting more and more obscene though.All the sports I loved as a kid are now over expanded,under talented,overpaid collections of men making exorbitant amounts of money.

    I might be sympathetic to this, if the same claims hadn't been made for the past 130 years.

    What I meant by the gravy train derailing is that tough economic times are coming to America no matter what we do.People are not going to have the disposeable income to pour into sports(not too mention numerous other entertainment options).

    I think the tough economic times already came. Are they going to get worse? I'm no economist. Seems there will be a lot more to worry about than baseball if they do.

    I'll get off your lawn now.

  31. John Autin Says:

    @27, Randy -- FYI, I answered that question which you also posted on my blog:

  32. -mark Says:

    Does explain a lot about the Mariners, though. Ichiro, Bradley, Hernandez and Figgins make up 60% of the payroll. Combine the WAR of the three batters and you get a total of -0.7 for this year. Only Felix is in the hunt. Maybe they should write a book?

  33. Hozchelaga Says:

    BSK @ 10

    Some thoughts on your interesting table. Starting with the premise that:

    1. Each team has a limited amount of money available for player salaries;

    2. Each team will lose players to injury; and

    3. Some of each team's players lost to injury will be the players on the list above (the 'top earners'),

    we might be interested to know how much risk each team has invested in their top earners.

    We can see this by measuring the top earner's salary against the total team salary (per the original list). We can also do it by measuring the sum of the salaries of the group of top earners on a team against the total team salary (per your list).

    Another way to do it, and using your table, is to determine the average proportion of a team's salary that would be lost if one of the team's top earners were lost to injury for the season (= percentage of team salary earned by team's top earners / the number of top earners). Here's the result:


    Indians 18.33
    Mets 16.20
    Angels 16.00
    Padres 15.50
    Rockies 15.33
    Cubs 15.00
    Brewers 15.00
    Mariners 15.00
    Rangers 14.00
    Cardinals 13.50
    Twins 13.25
    Nationals 13.25
    Tigers 13.00
    Yankees 13.00
    Giants 13.00
    Blue Jays 13.00
    Pirates 12.50
    Reds 12.40
    Astros 12.25
    Orioles 12.00
    Dodgers 12.00
    Marlins 11.50
    Rays 11.50
    Braves 11.00
    Royals 11.00
    Phillies 10.67
    Diamondbacks 10.33
    White Sox 10.20
    Red Sox 10.00

    In other words, even though 'only' 55% of the team's salary is tied up in the top earners, the Indians appear to be the most highly-geared. By that I mean that on average, a loss of any of Hafner, Sizemore or Carmona would be a bigger waste of money to the Indians than an average loss any other individual top earner to any other team.

    Using the other end of the table, the White Sox have 51% of their team salary tied up in their top earners. That's a greater proportion than 19 other teams, so they're clearly heavily invested at the top of the market. However, their 51% is spread across five guys (Peavy, Buehrle, Konerko, Dunn, Rios), so their average throw-away is 10.20%.

    Maybe that's just a long-winded way of saying, "even if you have a lot of money to spend at the top end of town, you'd still be wise spread it around".

    (And of course, the 'top earners' are arbitrarily determined by the list cut-off, so this is probably meaningless).

  34. Mike Silva's New York Baseball Digest » Blog Archive » Jeter Interview from ’92, Payroll Pork, Topps Traded, Kay’s Conspiracy Says:

    [...] Baseball-Reference put out a list of the 100 players making the highest percentage of their team’s payroll. [...]

  35. Mailbag: The 100 Players Making the Highest Percentage of Team Payroll » Baseball-Reference Blog » Blog Archive » Says:

    [...] Posted by Spooty at 10:20 am Daily Links [...]

  36. stan cook Says:

    #27. Didn't Marichal and Spahn possibly pitch a mutual 15 inning game at some point. I may have the pitchers wrong. Let me think about it. Somebody else will probably remember.

  37. Morten Jonsson Says:

    @36 This is the game you're thinking of:
    Willie Mays hit a home run off Spahn in the bottom of the 16th to break a scoreless tie, as both Spahn and Marichal went the distance. Spahn, who was forty-two years old, had pitched 27 consecutive scoreless innings to that point. He took his normal turn four days later and pitched a shutout.

  38. Steve Says:

    30 Ha!I'm 39 but I am an old fart.So stay off my lawn!!

  39. David Matchett Says:

    Put Vernon Wells back on the Jays and remove Eric Thames (who I assume is at the minimum) and VW's salary would make up 29.7% of the Toronto payroll. Great trade by Anthopoulos even though Rivera was just released and Francisco (received for Napoli) has been horrible.

  40. Open Thread: How the Yanks use their money | River Avenue Blues Says:

    [...] an interesting piece on the Baseball Reference blog yesterday, Neil Paine looked at the 100 players making the highest percentage of team payroll, and the Yankees are surprisingly not well represented. A-Rod’s $32 million salary is only [...]

  41. Neil L. Says:

    I'm late to the party here, Neil, but great blog.

    David, agreed about Anthopoulos finding a dancing partner for Vernon Wells even if Juan Rivera is designated for assignment. That was a shrewd move by AA.

    @3 @4
    Kahuna & Neil P., where was the origin of moneyball again? Please refresh my memory. 🙂