When Aaron Judge put pen to paper on a record-shattering 9-year, $360 million contract this winter, it reverberated throughout Major League Baseball. As the new highest-paid position player in league history, Judge‘s massive deal with the New York Yankees raises important questions. How does his $40 million average annual salary stack up against fellow MLB superstars? What benchmarks has Judge‘s contract set for other elite players? This in-depth guide provides a full breakdown of Judge‘s payday compared to baseball‘s best.
Laying Out Judge‘s Record-Setting Deal
Before diving into salary comparisons across MLB, it‘s worth recapping the basic details of Judge‘s historic contract:
- Total Value: $360 million over 9 years
- Average Annual Value (AAV): $40 million
- Previous Position Player Record: Mike Trout at $35.5 million AAV
With an extra $4.5 million in average salary, Judge now overwhelmingly tops Trout and all other everyday players in annual earnings. The 9-year term also provides Judge exceptional long-term security.
For the New York Yankees, this record expenditure reflects a commitment to retaining their homegrown superstar and top box office attraction. The massive dollar figures involved cement Judge as the face of baseball‘s most valuable franchise.
How Judge Stacks Up Against the Game‘s Elite
When comparing Judge to the highest salary earners across MLB, two pitchers still claim top spot:
Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander – $43.3 million AAV
As elite starters with multiple Cy Young awards on their resumes, Scherzer and Verlander earn roughly $3 million more per year than Judge.
But the two aces are also in the twilight of their careers at 38 and 39 years old, respectively. With age comes injury risk, making their long-term outlooks uncertain. Judge, on the other hand, is just entering his prime at age 30.
Mike Trout – $35.5 million AAV
Before Judge, Trout held the record for position players at $35.5 million annually. The perennial MVP candidate has lived up to his salary thus far, posting a 172 OPS+ over the first three years of his 12-year, $426 million contract.
But injuries limited the 31-year-old Trout to just 36 games in 2022, mitigating his value. Judge‘s relative durability gives him a strong case for being MLB‘s most valuable position player right now.
Mookie Betts – $30 million AAV
Another five-tool superstar, Betts falls short of Judge in average salary but is still one of baseball‘s premier talents. The 30-year-old won MVP in just his second year with the Dodgers in 2020 and seems likely to fulfill his 12-year, $365 million pact.
Bryce Harper – $27.5 million AAV
Harper was Judge‘s top competition in the 2018 free agent class and landed a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. The two-time MVP is among baseball‘s most feared and marketed hitters but lags Judge by over $10 million annually.
Jose Ramirez – $26 million AAV
One of the most underrated stars in baseball, Ramirez consistently produces MVP-level numbers in Cleveland on a bargain deal. The 30-year-old might be the AL‘s top third baseman but earns $14 million less per year than Judge.
Yordan Alvarez – $25 million AAV
The 2019 Rookie of the Year, Alvarez exploded onto the scene with the Houston Astros and took his game to new levels in 2022. But despite his huge numbers at just 25 years old, his salary remains $15 million below Judge‘s mark.
Conclusion: While Scherzer and Verlander technically earn more on a yearly basis, Judge is now the undisputed salary leader among everyday position players in today‘s MLB. And his total contract value blows away any previous deals for hitters.
How Judge Stacks Up Against Fellow Yankees
The magnitude of Judge‘s deal becomes even clearer when juxtaposed against his own New York teammates:
- Giancarlo Stanton – $25 million AAV
- Josh Donaldson – $21 million AAV
- Gerrit Cole – $36 million AAV
- Jameson Taillon – $14 million AAV
Judge‘s 2023 salary alone eclipses the career earnings so far for younger Yankees like Gleyber Torres ($7.8 million) and Isiah Kiner-Falefa ($4.2 million).
The enormous pay gap reflects Judge‘s heightened performance and leadership. His 62 home runs and MVP season proved indispensable for New York on the way to an AL East title. He simply possesses a skill set that no teammate can replicate.
How Judge‘s Deal Could Reshape MLB Contracts
Industry sources see Judge‘s record payday as a seminal moment that could spur additional monster contracts. Within weeks of his deal, two other stars inked $200 million+ deals clearly influenced by Judge‘s market value:
- Trea Turner, 11 years/$300 million with Phillies
- Carlos Correa, 6 years/$200 million with Twins
Two key factors explain why Judge is driving this contract boom:
1. Soaring MLB Revenues
League revenue has rocketed in recent decades, from $1.2 billion in 1992 to over $10 billion in 2021. Players are now rightfully demanding higher salaries from this growing financial pie. Judge‘s deal brings player earnings more in line with underlying baseball economics.
2. Judge‘s Unique Brand Power
Part of what makes Judge so valuable is his marketability. No. 99 jerseys dot stadiums nationwide, boosting merchandise sales. His fame attracts viewers and ticket sales. Few others boast as much brand clout.
With revenues surging and Judge demonstrating his singular draw, expect other stars to leverage these trends in future negotiations. Top young talents like Juan Soto and Rafael Devers could approach similar stratospheric salaries one day. Judge is the face of a new era.
How Judge‘s Deal Compares Historically
While Judge‘s $40 million AAV figure appears eye-popping, in truth MLB salaries have grown steadily over decades when adjusted for inflation:
Average MLB Salary By Year:
|Year||Avg. Salary||Adjusted for 2022 Inflation|
As the above table illustrates, today‘s massive contracts reflect natural growth in player salaries over time alongside booming league revenues. Plus, elite superstars have always earned substantially more than the average or median player.
Instead of an aberration, Judge‘s deal falls into an established trajectory where the game‘s premier talents earn sums commensurate with their abilities and draw. He simply represents today‘s gold standard.
How Judge Can Maximize Earnings Beyond His Salary
Beyond just his substantial base salary, Judge has multiple avenues to earn even more over the life of his contract:
Annual bonuses: Judge can unlock an extra $4 million per year through bonuses based on MVP voting.
Playoff success bonuses: Perks for winning LCS MVP, World Series MVP, even just reaching the postseason.
Milestone bonuses: Added compensation for reaching career milestones like 500 home runs or breaking the Yankees‘ all-time home run record.
Commercial endorsements: As one of baseball‘s most popular figures, Judge can also earn millions annually in partnerships and endorsements.
With his salary as a baseline, Judge has enormous potential to pile on even more earnings until he hangs up the cleats. His final career haul could approach nearly half a billion dollars.
How Baseball Salaries Compare To Other Major Sports
While Judge‘s deal appears record-setting within baseball, it‘s instructive to see how MLB salaries compare relative to the other "Big 4" sports leagues:
Average Annual Salary By Sport:
Despite boasting smaller rosters, the NBA and NFL both significantly outpace MLB in average player compensation. This likely results from their more lucrative national media deals compared to baseball‘s more regionalized model.
But MLB does spend a higher % of total revenue on player salaries:
|League||Revenue Share to Players|
So while earning less on average than basketball or football stars, MLB players still receive substantial pay relative to their sport‘s financial size. Expect baseball‘s salaries to keep rising as revenues grow.
Putting Judge‘s Deal in Perspective
Given the magnitude of Judge‘s record-setting contract, it‘s helpful to summarize its key implications and place in baseball history:
With a $40 million AAV, Judge is now MLB‘s highest-paid position player by a wide margin.
His total guarantee of $360 million blows away previous position player deals.
Two elite pitchers still earn slightly more, but are nearing retirement age unlike the 30-year-old Judge.
Judge‘s salary represents a major raise from his fellow Yankee teammates.
His unique popularity and on-field value justify the record investment by New York.
Contract benchmarks are rising across MLB thanks in part to Judge‘s deal.
Judge‘s salary reflects larger MLB growth trends over decades.
Significant bonuses and endorsements can help Judge earn even more.
While high by baseball standards, Judge‘s deal lags behind other sports‘ top stars.
In the end, there‘s no denying Aaron Judge now sets the new gold standard for position player salaries in today‘s MLB. While few will replicate his exact contract, Judge represents theiface of baseball‘s financial future.