Show me the Manny

Machado, other pros reaping astronomical incomes from their athletic performances

Now that the San Diego Padres have shown Manny Machado the money by giving him the largest free agent deal in Major League Baseball history, where does that rank him among the highest-paid athletes in all sports?

Amazingly, while his 10-year, $300-million contract is record-setting in the baseball world, it still leaves him far down the list of richest athletes, especially when compared to boxers and soccer superstars. What follows is a brief look at where Machado now stands among his athletic peers in several different financial categories:

Giancarlo Stanton | Courtesy New York Yankees

Among recent MLB free agents

Even though Machado holds the richest free-agent deal ever (at least until Bryce Harper finally signs) there is a caveat: he is still not the highest-paid MLB player. That honor belongs to New York Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who got 13 years, $325 million ($25 million per year) from the Miami Marlins in November 2014. The Marlins moved quickly to dump that load in 2017, even sending some cash New York’s way to close the deal. But in terms of total salary, Stanton is still MLB’s highest-paid player.

As for free agent signings, Machado’s deal puts him at the head of a very distinguished class that includes Alex Rodriguez (twice), Robinson Cano, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. All are position players who previously received contracts of at least 10 years or at least $200 million in total salary.

Rodriguez kicked off the era of the long-term, mega-money deals when he signed with the Texas Rangers for 10 years and $252 million in 2001. He then opted out after five years and signed an even bigger deal with the Yankees—10 years, $275 million in 2007. Robinson Cano left the Yankees for the Seattle Mariners for 10 years, $240 million in 2013, Albert Pujols went from St. Louis to the Los Angeles Angeles for 10 years, $240 million in 2001, and Prince Fielder got eight years, $214 million from Detroit in 2012.

Though historic, the average annual value (AAV) of Machado’s deal ($30 per year) would also not have been tops for an MLB player on the Forbes 2018 Top 100 list of The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes. That was Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw—the first MLB player on the list at No. 37—whose AAV was $33.8 million. Boston Red Sox pitcher David Price was No. 47 with an AAV of $30 million.

Price received a seven-year, $217 million deal from Boston in 2016, Max Scherzer got seven years and $210 million from Washington in 2017, and Zack Greinke got six years and $206.5 million from Arizona in 2016.

Among highest-paid by salary

The annual Forbes list breaks down into three categories—pay, salary/winnings, and endorsements. So the pay of some athletes (the sum of salary/winnings plus endorsements) will reflect more salary/winnings and less endorsements and vice versa for others.

Strictly from a pay standpoint, Machado would have fallen onto the list in a tie for 47th with Price. And at only $30 million per year, he would have been a far cry from those at the top of the list like boxer Floyd Mayweather, Mixed Martial Arts superstar Conor McGregor and soccer players Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar—all whom reside in another stratosphere.

Mayweather topped the 2018 pay list with $285 million followed by Messi ($111 million), Ronaldo ($108 million), McGregor ($99 million) and Neymar ($90 million). Mayweather’s salary/winnings for the year totalled $275 million, and he had $10 million in endorsements, while Messi’s salary/winnings were $84 million, Ronaldo’s were $61 million, McGregor’s were $85 million and Neymar’s were S73 million.

Highest on the list of athletes whose sport doesn’t include punching, choking or kicking a ball was NBA superstar LeBron James, who ranked sixth on the list with pay of $85.5 million ($33.5 million in salary/winnings and $52 million in endorsements.)

Stephen Curry. Photo by Chris Elise/Getty Images | Courtesy Golden State Warriors

Among highest-paid by endorsements

James is among a sizeable number of athletes on the Forbes list who made more money from endorsements than they did from salary/winnings in 2018. Other notables in this category include Roger Federer ($65 million in endorsements, $12.2 million in salary/winnings), Stephen Curry ($42 million in endorsements, $34.9 million in salary/winnings) and sprinter Usain Bolt ($30 million in endorsements, $1 million in salary/winnings.)

Veteran golfers Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson maintain high marks on the list almost exclusively through endorsements. At No. 17, Woods made $42 million in endorsements and $1.3 million in salary/winnings in 2018 while Mickelson came in 22nd with $37 million in endorsements and $4.3 million in salary/winnings.

Of those on the list, NFL and MLB players receive by far the least amount of their income through endorsements.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan stands ninth overall with $62.3 million in salary/winnings and $5 million in endorsements, though it should be noted that Ryan’s 2018 pay included a $30 million salary plus part of a guaranteed bonus he received for signing a new five-year contract in $2018. His $5 million in endorsements were the highest of any NFL player on the list.

Among MLB players, San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey received the most endorsement income at $3.5 million while the face of baseball, Mike Trout, received $2.5 million, Kershaw just $750,000 and Price just $650,000.

But with several high-profile gaffes in last season’s MLB playoffs and World Series bringing into question Machado’s love for the game and his integrity when playing it, it doesn’t figure he will up the endorsement figure among baseball players anytime soon.

Among historic free agents

This category is included mostly to contrast how far the free agency figures have come since it started in 1974.

That year an arbitrator ruled in favor of right-handed starter Jim “Catfish” Hunter in a dispute with Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley and made him the first free agent in baseball in more than a century. Flamboyant Yankees owner George Steinbrenner swooped in and signed Hunter to a five-year deal worth $3.75 million (with a $1 million signing bonus).  So even as he made history, Hunter still earned just $750,000 annually for those five years.

Even the deals for players like Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and Pete Rose, though record-setting at the time, were a mere pittance compared to today’s numbers. Rose became the game’s highest-paid player when he signed a three-year, $3.24 million deal with Philadelphia in 1978 and one year later Ryan went home to Texas on a four-year, $4.5 million deal with the Houston Astros.

Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, San Diego was a favorite destination for many of the game’s most notable free agents. Padres owner Ray Kroc—founder of McDonald’s—was a perennial player in the free agent market, bringing in players like Gene Tenace (1977), Rollie Fingers (1978), Oscar Gamble (1978),  Steve Garvey (1983), Rich Gossage (1984), and Graig Nettles (1984) to don San Diego duds. And while contract figures for the group are not readily available, it’s safe to say that the total of all their deals combined doesn’t come anywhere close to Machado’s.

It was a player who left San Diego that really kicked in the door of free agency in 1980 when Dave Winfield signed what was one of the richest contracts in all of sports at the time. Steinbrenner and the Yankees gave the eventual Hall of Famer the first 10-year deal in MLB history for $23 million and with it, the game headed down the road to where it is today.

Where will it go from here? Will Harper become the highest-paid player in baseball as seems to be the goal of agent Scott Boras? Will Trout become the first $400 million man after the 2020 season? Will Mookie Betts be the first $500 million man the next year? Who knows. The only thing that’s certain right now is that for the time being “Big Money” Manny is rolling in the dough like no MLB free agent before him. H&A


Jimmy Creed

Jimmy Creed

Jimmy Creed is the former award-winning sports editor of The Anniston (Alabama) Star and editor of Saints Digest, the official team publication of the New Orleans Saints. He is a two-time winner of the Alabama Sports Writers Association Herby Kirby Award for the best sports story in the state of Alabama and has received numerous writing awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors, the National Motorsports Press Association. and the Alabama Press Association. He is also the author of NASCAR legend Donnie Allison's biography "Donnie Allison: As I Recall."
Jimmy Creed

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