If you want to make top dollar in Major League Baseball, being a starting pitcher is a good position to play. In 2019, six starting pitchers ranked among the top 10 MLB salary earners. The highest-paid player was Nationals’ starter Stephen Strasburg, and he’s still making top dollar. There are even more high-earning pitchers in 2020, with pitchers making up seven of the top 10 earners. Here’s a look at the five highest-paid pitchers in 2020, including two Houston Astros’ hurlers who might miss the World Series, but will still add millions in the bank.
5. Justin Verlander, Houston Astros — $33 million
Verlander made peanuts (relatively) early in his career, but he signed a $66 million deal with the Houston Astros before the 2019 season. It lasts just two years, and he’ll get half of that in 2020 — $33 million.
Verlander pitched for the Detroit Tigers from 2005 to 2017 before being traded to the Astros. His 2019 record was 21-6, with a 2.58 ERA. Across his career, he’s 225-129 with a 3.33 ERA and 3,006 strikeouts.
He’s racked up a lengthy list of awards, starting with the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year. He had an outstanding year in 2011, winning the AL Cy Young, the AL MVP, and Major League Player of the Year. In 2017, he was part of the World Series champion Astros. Among other awards, in 2019, he won the AL Cy Young Award a second time.
3. Zack Greinke, Houston Astros — $35 million (TIE)
The six-year, $206,500,000 contract Greinke signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016 still makes him one of the highest-paid pitchers in baseball. He went to Houston during the 2019 season, and his contract followed. He’ll earn a salary of $35 million.
Greinke went 18-5 in 2019 with a 2.93 ERA. He’s played for six different teams in his career and has a 205-123 record. His career ERA is 3.35, and he has 2,622 strikeouts. Despite the recent turn of events, the Astros’ offense is still potent, and Greinke figures to add to his career numbers as one of the highest-paid pitchers in MLB in 2020.
3. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals — $35 million (TIE)
Strasburg has spent his entire MLB career, since 2010, with the Washington Nationals. He signed a seven-year contract worth $245 million, which starts with the 2020 season. The deal gives him a salary of $35 million a year.
During the 2019 season, Strasburg went 18-6 and posted a 3.32 ERA. Across his entire career, he has a 112-58 mark with a 3.17 ERA and 1,695 strikeouts. He had a great year in 2019, being named to the 2019 All-MLB Team 1 and winning the 2019 Babe Ruth Award. Strasburg was also the 2019 World Series MVP after the Nationals won, beating the Houston Astros.
2. Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals — $35,920,616
A pitcher from Missouri, Scherzer has been pitching for the Washington Nationals since 2015, when he signed a seven-year, $210 million contract. The deal pays him an average of $30 million per year and includes a $50 million signing bonus, but his salary increases to $35,920,616 in 2020. As such, he moves up a little on the list of highest-paid pitchers.
The usually-healthy Scherzer hit the disabled list in 2019, but he still went 11-7 with a 2.92 ERA in 2019. In his career since 2008, he has a record of 170-89, a 3.20 ERA, and 2,692 strikeouts. He also has several big-time awards to his name, including three Cy Young Awards (2013 AL, 2016 NL, and 2017 NL) and one World Series championship.
1. Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees — $36 million
Gerrit Cole was the grand prize in free agency before the 2020 season, and he’ll top the list of highest-paid pitchers in baseball. Not only is the top-paid hurler in the game, but Cole also has the fourth-largest deal for any MLB player ever (plus two excellent bottles of wine, courtesy of the Yankees). He signed a new contract for 2020, which will pay him $324 million over nine years. That’s an annual salary of $36 million a year and a big jump from the $13.5 million he earned in 2019.
Cole pitched last season for the Houston Astros, where he led the American League with 326 strikeouts. He had a 20-5 record with a 2.50 ERA. Cole fulfilled a childhood dream by signing with the Yankees, and he got a little something extra to sign in New York in addition to the massive contract.