The 2020 MLB season is still in question. The most difficult part of getting the season to happen is payroll negotiations. Do players make their full salaries? Half-salary? Or will the whole season be cancelled (players would make less than one-twentieth of usual salary)? This is a situation the MLB and the players have never had to deal with before. There’s so many questions, but if players do take quite a pay cut this season, Prince Fielder, who hasn’t played since 2016, could be the highest paid player. So could Jacoby Ellsbury, who isn’t currently on any team’s roster.
Mike Trout is set to be the highest paid player in 2020 at $37.6 million. But, say the MLB and players do end up agreeing on paying 50% of salaries- that puts Mike Trout at $18.8 million.
Prince Fielder is owed $24 million by the Rangers as part of the last season of his contract. This payment is the last part of his nine-year, $214 million contract he signed with the Detroit Tigers before the 2012 season. Fielder was traded to the Texas Rangers in exchange for second baseman Ian Kinsler just two years later and most of the burden of Fielder’s contract fell on the Rangers (Tigers still paid part). When Fielder retired, the agreement was that he would still be paid through the 2020 season. Due to the language of the contract and the most recent CBA (collective bargaining agreement), it’s very unlikely the Rangers would win an sort of legal action that could get them out of this arrangement for 2020.
Then there’s Jacoby Ellsbury.
The Yankees released Ellsbury in November and said they would not pay the rest of Ellsbury’s contract ($21 million); citing that he received treatment from a health care provider who was not affiliated with the Club and was not authorized by the Club in advance of the treatment. The MLB Player’s Association filed a grievance against the Yankees to recoup the $21 million left on Ellsbury’s contract, plus the $5 million buyout added to it for a total of $26 million. If the MLBPA wins this grievance, that would make Ellsbury the highest paid player of 2020 in this scenario.
Players would have to make more than 63% of their salaries in 2020 for Prince Fielder not to be paid more than Mike Trout in 2020 and 69% for Ellsbury not to make more than him (if he wins the grievance).
Fielder and Ellsbury are not the only retired or inactive players that would have to be paid in full on their deferred/remaining contract for 2020.
Jacoby Ellsbury- Yankees- $26 million (if grievance is won)
Prince Fielder- Rangers- $24 million
Some Other players still to be paid full amount include:
Wei-Yin Chen- Marlins- $22 million
*Chen was released last season with $22 million remaining on his contract, he is currently on the Seattle Mariners roster
Troy Tulowitzki- Blue Jays- $ 14 million
Zack Cozart- Giants- $12.6 million
David Wright- Mets- $12 million
Scott Kazmir- Dodgers- $8 million
Alex Rodriguez- Yankees- $5 million
Ken Griffey Jr – Reds $3.6 million
Jason Vargas- Mets- $2 million
Rafael Soriano- Nationals- $2 million
Bronson Arroyo- Reds- $1.4 million
Bobby Bonilla- Mets- $1.2 million (As always)
So we’ll have to wait and see what the agreement looks like to determine whether or not the MLB’s highest paid player will be one who hasn’t played in almost four years in Fielder or if it’s one who’s currently a free agent in Ellsbury. Adding just another odd aspect to an odd season during an odd time to be alive.