The best team $9.1 million can buy

The best team $9.1 million can buy

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What I’m Hearing: Bob Nightengale was on hand for Bryce Harper’s debut as a Philadelphia Philly and relays what he heard and saw from the six-time All-Star.
USA TODAY

It’s pays to be a Major League Baseball player.

Salaries range from $550,000 to $35 million for the 850-plus players on opening-day rosters and injured lists, according to USA TODAY Sports’ annual MLB salary survey.

More than 50 percent of the league are millionaires, many of them multi-millionaires.

But at the other end of the rainbow, there’s no pot of gold. Nearly 40 percent of the player pool earns close to the league minimum of $555,000 – which, yes, is still a hefty chunk of change and 12 times that of the U.S. average salary, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – but it’s not much in baseball’s Monopoly money. 

This demographic – which often gets dinners comped by the wealthier players on the team – are emerging stars and players under a team’s control and without any rights.

But collectively, what a team they could assemble.

Here is our All-Star roster of players earning close to league minimum:

  • C: Gary Sanchez, Yankees ($669,800)
  • 1B: Rhys Hoskins, Phillies ($575,000)
  • 2B: Ozzie Albies, Braves ($575,000)
  • 3B: Alex Bregman, Astros ($640,500)
  • SS: Dansby Swanson, Braves ($585,000)
  • LF: Ronald Acuna, Braves ($560,000)
  • CF: Harrison Bader, Cardinals ($578,300)
  • RF: Aaron Judge, Yankees ($684,300)
  • DH: Shohei Ohtani, Angels ($650,000)
  • SP1: Walker Buehler, Dodgers ($570,000)
  • SP2: Kyle Freeland, Rockies ($565,000)
  • SP3: Jose Berrios, Twins ($620,000)
  • SP4: Jameson Taillon, Pirates ($587,500)
  • Closer: Josh Hader, Brewers ($687,600)
  • RP: Richard Bleier, Orioles (572,500)

The total of value of these 15 players is just over $9.1 million – less than the $9.25 million that Philadelphia Phillies reliever Juan Nicasio will earn by himself this season.

Acuna, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year, is the lowest-paid player on the Braves.

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There is plenty of money to throw around in an industry that topped $10 billion in revenues in 2018. This winter alone, free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado combined for $630 million in guaranteed money and nearly two dozen players opted for long-term security over free agency and accepted nearly $1.7 billion in salary — topped by Mike Trout.  

But that’s just the way the system works right now. Some day, a bunch of the above players will be among the league’s highest paid.

Bregman, for example, is making just $640,500 this season, but he recently signed a six-year, $100 million contract that will puts his 2020 salary at $13 million.

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