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12 Baseball Players Who Got a Lot Richer in 2012

by: Esteban On  Monday, December 17, 2012

largest biggest baseball contracts 2012

In case you hadn’t noticed, 2012 was a pretty good year for elite baseball players. There have been 38 players to sign $100 million contracts in the history of baseball, and 8 of them have done so in the past 12 months. I mean, just think about that. That’s 21% of all $100,000,000 contracts. And that doesn’t even include guys like Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes, who signed their big deals in December of 2011.

Today we’re going to take a look back at the big baseball contracts signed in 2012. And rather than proceed from smallest to largest contract, we’re going to go in chronological order.

So who’s up first? Well, I’ll give you a hint: he’s a royal first basemen, but he doesn’t play in Kansas City…


12. Prince Fielder


Contract: $214 Million, 9 years

Date Signed: January 25, 2012

Prince had to wait for El Hombre (Albert Pujols) to sign his whopping deal with the Angels last year before his market value as a big-hitting first baseman could be determined. And once that was settled, the guy cashed in big time. Now he’s making more money per year than the guy who just won the first triple crown in baseball since 1967 (Miguel Cabrera).

Of course, this wasn’t even the biggest contract of 2012. That one didn’t come until April.


11. Ryan Zimmerman

11 ryan zimmerman - biggest baseball contracts of 2012

Contract: $100 Million, 6 years

Date Signed: February 26, 2012

Ryan Zimmerman was the first player drafted by the Nationals after they arrived in D.C. from Montreal, and he has become one fo the best third basemen in Major League Baseball—great hitter, terrific defense. Interestingly, it seems the Nats learned from the stupid deal they gave Jayson Werth just two years ago. Whereas Werth will be making $21 million when he’s 38 years old, Zimmerman will earn just $14 million from ages 30-34 and $18 million when he’s 35.

That’s a smart contract for everybody.


10. Yadier Molina

10 yadier molina - biggest baseball contracts of 2012

Contract: $75 Million, 5 years

Date Signed: March 1, 2012

Yadier Molina was best buds with Albert Pujols in St. Louis. So he was probably sad to see him go…until the team used some of the money they didn’t spend on El Hombre to give Molina a $75 million deal that pays him $15 million per season through 2017.

Now, a lot of people questioned this deal—the second-richest ever for a catcher—at the time it was announced. But then Yadier went out and had the best all-around season of his career in 2012. He hit .315/.373/.501 with 22 HRs, then won the Rawlings Gold Glove (as the best defensive catcher), the Rawlings Platinum Glove (as the best overall defender regardless of position), and the Fielding Bible Award (which is actually a better indicator of defensive prowess than the more traditional Gold Glove Award).


9. Matt Cain

9 matt cain - biggest baseball contracts of 2012

Contract: $127.5 Million, 6 years

Date Signed: April 2, 2012

The Giants signed Matt Cain to a big fat extension right at the start of the 2012 season—an extension that will keep him around through 2017, when he’s just 32 years old. Then a few months later he made the deal look even better by throwing the 22nd perfect game in the history of MLB.


8. Joey Votto


Contract: $225 Million, 10 years

Date Signed: April 3, 2012

Now here’s one nobody saw coming. Though the Reds had Joey Votto locked up through 2013, they decided to avoid the hoopla and disappointment experienced by their division rivals over in St. Louis by getting locking their first basemen in at the established market value for premier (i.e., top 2 or 3) slugging first basemen. The ten year contract doesn’t even kick in until 2014, and for the first three years the salary remains relatively low. But in 2017, when Votto is 33 years old, the salary jumps to $22M, and from 2018 to 2023, when Votto is 39, it’s $25M.

Obviously, the Reds are under the impression that inflation will make this contract seem reasonable in 8-10 years. They may be right.


7. Ian Kinsler


Contract: $75 Million, 5 years

Date Signed: April 10, 2012

The Texas Rangers locked in their second baseman at the start of the season with a nice deal that will pay him $14M in 2016, when he turns 34 years old. That’s a lot of money for an average (or maybe slightly above average) defender and a good (but not great) hitter. The Cardinals are definitely getting a lot more for their $75 million than the Rangers will for theirs. Yadier Molina is indispensable to his team. Kinsler is not. (No offense, Ian. You’re a swell guy.)


6. Evan Longoria


Contract: $100 Million, 6 years

Date Signed: November 26, 2012

Now we jump from April to November. The Rays took a page out of the Nationals’ book with this contract. The Rays still had Longoria locked up though 2016 at an extremely reasonable rate. Longoria will make only $11.5 million in 2016, when he’s 30 years old. Then his new $100M deal kicks in, locking him up until he’s 41 at what will be (with inflation) a reasonable $19.5M in 2022, when he’ll be just 36.

That is a smart contract.


5. B.J. Upton

5 b.j. upton braves - biggest baseball contracts of 2012

Contract: $75 Million, 5 years

Date Signed: November 28, 2012

It used to be that a $75M contract only went to the biggest stars. Now that is not the case.

B.J. Upton has had two really good offensive years in his career: 2007 and 2008. Combined he hit .287/.384/.454 with 33 home runs. Last year, however, he hit .246/.298/.454 with 28 HRs. And while, yes, he is an above-average defender, it’s still crazy to think this guy will get paid $75M to play baseball for five years in Atlanta.


4. David Wright

4 david wright - biggest baseball contracts of 2012

Contract: $138 Million, 8 years

Date Signed: December 3, 2012

The Mets just worked out a deal to trade the pitcher who just won the N.L. Cy Young Award (R.A. Dicky), so obviously they are not even planning on contending this season. Nevertheless, the cash-strapped team did sign third baseman David Wright to the biggest contract in the history of the franchise a few weeks ago. So obviously they plan to rebuild with him at the nucleus.

Interestingly, Wright must really be comfortable playing ball in Queens, because his deal is structured in a very team-friendly manner. In 2013, the guy is actually taking a pay cut from what he made the last two seasons and from what he would have made this year had he not got the new deal. Then in 2014 his pay jumps from $11M to $20M, which is great. But he’s agreed to defer $15.5M of from 2013 to 2018…without interest. 

So, yeah, he must really like the Mets.


3. Zack Greinke

3 zack greinke dodgers - biggest baseball contracts of 2012

Contract: $147 Million, 6 years

Date Signed: December 10, 2012

Last week Zack Greinke signed the second richest contract for a pitcher in baseball history. The Dodgers lured him away from their SoCal neighbors in Anaheim. But the really crazy thing is that Greinke—jus the second-best pitcher on the Dodgers after Clayton Kershaw—is only the fourth-highest paid player on his team. Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Matt Kemp will all make more than him in 2013.


2. Josh Hamilton

2 josh hamilton - biggest baseball contracts of 2012

Contract: $125 Million, 5 years

Date Signed: December 13, 2012

For the second straight year, Angels owner Arte Moreno (pictured above, on the left) swooped in and scooped up a major star after the club he was with hurt his feelings.

Last year, of course, it was Pujols. After the Cardinals “insulted” the slugger with initial low-ball offers, Moreno came in at the last minute and offered Pujols a crazy contract (he’ll be paid $30 million when he is 41 years old) and told him that he loved him.

This year it’s Josh Hamilton. After getting “a little upset” that the Rangers didn’t move quickly enough to resign him this year, the slugging outfielder finally decided to accept that nice warm hug (and huge paycheck) from Moreno in Anaheim.

Maybe now Hamilton can afford to have some of those tattoos removed.


1. Anibal Sanchez


Contract: $80 Million, 5 years

Date Signed: December 14, 2012

What on earth is going on, right?

Look, Anibal Sanchez is a good pitcher. Above average, very useful. But he’s a #2 pitcher at best, and in a good rotation he’s a #3. Last season he had a combined 3.86 ERA with the Marlins and Tigers. The season before that he had a 3.67 ERA, and the season before that he had a 3.55 ERA. All very solid and reliable, nothing incredible.

Oh, and he had never once pitched 200 innings in a season.

And yet the guy is going to make $80M over the next 5 years. Wow.

Good luck signing Adam Wainwright next year, St. Louis!