David Price, the former Blackman High School and Vanderbilt University pitcher, is the highest paid player in the major leagues who played high school and/or college baseball in Tennessee.
His Boston Red Sox teammate Mookie Betts, who played at Overton High School in Nashville, is second.
Price will make $31 million this year, part of his seven-year, $217 million contract that runs through 2022. Betts, who will be a free agent after next season, reached his current total by agreeing to $20 million this year through the arbitration process with the Red Sox.
They are part of the way the money works in big league salaries today, and Price and Betts lead the way among over 20 major league players home-grown in Tennessee.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today did a thorough job reporting this week on the salaries of all major league players, relying on figures from the players union, team officials and agents. Nightengale explained a system where players who can be absolute stars still start out making the smallest amount of money, if you count roughly over $500,000 a small amount, because without a lot of service time it’s hard to climb the financial ladder in the big leagues, even if you play lights-out baseball.
Nightengale explained how players with less service make the least, then can gain substantially through the arbitration process before going for the big contract in free agency after six years. It’s certainly a system that rewards superstars in free agency. Nightengale’s piece did a good job of revealing the huge wage gap between young, talented players, and those with more service who make the big money.
The figures also lend insight to some of the reasoning behind the recent rush of contract extensions, as teams learn the value of playing rising young players well, and not throwing away a lot of money on players who may be past their prime. The extension the Atlanta Braves agreed with young star Ronald Acuna Jr. to on Tuesday, eight years and $100 million with team options for two more years, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, is just the latest example. Nightengale’s report this week showed Acuna’s 2019 salary at $560,000.
It’s a system where former Vanderbilt pitcher Walker Buehler, who is viewed as a star for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is making, $570,000, which is far less than Shawn Kelley, a former Austin Peay pitcher, who is making $2.75 million this year as a relief pitcher for the Texas Rangers. That also reflects the value of a veteran relief pitcher in the modern game. Buehler is in his third major league season. Kelley has been in the big leagues since 2009.
Zack Cozart, who played at Collierville High School and lives in Brentwood, will make $12.6 million this year as part of a three-year, $38 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels. Mike Minor, who played at Forrest High in Chapel Hill and is a former Vanderbilt pitcher, will get $9.8 million this year from the Rangers.
In many realms, revealing people’s paychecks can be considered crass, but making the numbers public is a way for players and their agents to use the figures as bargaining chips. It’s also worthwhile to remember how much people are paying to watch their teams play. And it’s a way to highlight big-market and small-market teams and how they cope with the modern realities of pay negotiations.
Below, working from the USA Today report, is a list of players from Tennessee high schools and colleges who are on big-league rosters and the amount of money they will make in 2019. The figures are for this season only.
David Price, lhp, Blackman High School,Vanderbilt, Boston Red Sox, $31 million
Mookie Betts, of, Overton High School, Boston Red Sox, $20 million
Zack Cozart, 3b, Collierville High School, Los Angeles Angels, $12,666,667
Mike Minor, lhp, Forrest High School, Vanderbilt, Texas Rangers, $9,833,333
Steve Cishek, rhp, Carson Newman College, Chicaco Cubs, $7.5 million
Sonny Gray, rhp, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati Reds, $7.5 million
Robbie Ray, lhp, Brentwood High, Arizona Diamondbacks, $6,050,000
Shawn Kelley, rhp, Austin Peay, Rangers, $2.75 million
Logan Forsythe, inf, Christian Brothers High School, Texas Rangers, $2 million
Daniel Norris, lhp, Science Hill High, Johnson City, Detroit Tigers, $1,275,000
Curt Casali, c, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati Reds, $950,000
Zack Godley, rhp, Tennessee, Arizona Diamondbacks, $609,400
Dansby Swanson, ss, Vanderbilt, Atlanta Braves, $585,000
Tony Kemp, of, Centennial High School, Vanderbilt, Houston Astros, $583,000
Drew Steckenrider, rhp, Tennessee, Miami Marlins, $575,000
Walker Buehler, rhp, Vanderbilt, Los Angeles Dodgers, $570,00
Drew VerHagen, rhp, Vanderbilt, Detroit Tigers, $567,400
Wes Parsons, rhp, Clarksville High, Jackson State CC, Atlanta Braves, $565,000
Kyle Wright, rhp, Vanderbilt, Atlanta Braves, $565,000
Jacob Stallings, c, Pittsburgh Pirates, Brentwood Academy, $564,000
David Hess, rhp, Tullahoma High School, Tennessee Tech, Baltimore Orioles, $563,500
Dakota Hudson, rhp, Sequatchie County High School, St. Louis Cardinals, $559,100
Christin Stewart, of, Tennessee, Detroit Tigers, $556,400