An injection of youth in Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game is a clear sign that more teams are getting the best bang for their payroll dollars.
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Franchises including the Houston Astros and New York Mets have refocused on developing their farm systems to consistently stock their big-league teams with young talent. Teams can turn to free agency for help, but young players under team control can help a club for years to come—for a fraction of the price.
Take, for example, Chicago Cubs rookie Kris Bryant. The 23-year-old third baseman is one of baseball’s rising stars and participated in Monday’s Home Run Derby just 87 days after his MLB debut.
In his first season, Bryant will earn around the league minimum of $507,500, making him the lowest-paid player in the 86th Midsummer Classic.
Chicago Cubs 3B Kris Bryant (Source: AP)
A record 20 of the 76 All-Stars in Tuesday night’s game are 25 years old or younger.
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Bryant’s teammate Anthony Rizzo, 25, agreed to a long-term contract with the Cubs in 2013, nearly a year after appearing in a MLB game for the first time. He signed a seven-year deal that will pay out a total of $41 million through the 2019 season. Based on data from Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Rizzo is due to make $5 million for the 2015 season.
Rizzo was chosen as the National League’s designated hitter for the All-Star Game and competed in the Home Run Derby.
Todd Frazier won the Home Run Derby in front of a hometown crowd at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, this year’s All-Star Game host. The 29-year-old New Jersey native is playing under the first year of a two-year, $12 million contract with the Reds, according to Baseball Reference.
Frazier is ranked third in the National League in home runs with 25 round trippers during the first half. He trails just Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton, who is out of the All-Star Game due to a fractured wrist.
Harper, just 22 years old, is a three-time All-Star. This season is Harper’s best so far. The outfielder already has a career-high 26 homers to go with a .339 batting average, putting him in early consideration for the NL Most Valuable Player award. Another MVP contender, Arizona Diamondbacks slugger Paul Goldschmidt, has the same 2015 salary as Frazier: $3 million.
Harper, who set a new record with 14 million All-Star votes, is signed with the Washington Nationals through 2016. His two-year contract is worth $7.5 million, although his 2015 salary is $2.5 million. The remaining $5 million will be paid out in 2016.
Cincinnati Reds 3B Todd Frazier (Source: AP)
Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers replaced Stanton in the NL’s starting lineup. After playing just 18 games last season, the rookie has slugged 20 home runs in 2015. Pederson will make roughly $510,000 this year. He isn’t arbitration eligible until 2018.
MLB players enter salary arbitration when they accumulate three or more years of service, but less than six years, as a major leaguer.
On the American League All-Star squad, Baltimore Orioles star third baseman Manny Machado is playing for $548,000 as a 23-year-old this season.
Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros is signed through 2017 under a four-year, $12.5 million deal. Cot’s says the All-Star will make $2.5 million this year. The Astros also have team options that could keep the 25-year-old Altuve in Houston through 2019.
Jose Iglesias, a native of Cuba, is batting .314 for the Detroit Tigers. His 2015 salary is $1.44 million.
Both leagues have a strong group of young pitchers as well.
Jacob deGrom blossomed into one of the NL’s best starting pitchers after the Mets promoted him from the minor leagues in May 2014. The right-hander’s 2015 salary is $557,000, a year after deGrom was voted NL Rookie of the Year. DeGrom ended the first half ranked fourth in the NL with an earned-run average of 2.14.
Carlos Martinez, a 23-year-old righty on the St. Louis Cardinals, is making even less at $520,000 this season. That’s the same salary as teammate and fellow All-Star Michael Wacha. Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal, one of the league leaders in saves, will earn $535,000.
The Oakland Athletics are paying starter Sonny Gray a 2015 salary of $513,000. Gray is leading the AL in ERA. He was replaced on the AL roster after starting for the A’s on Sunday.
Dallas Keuchel, the AL’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game, is banking $525,000 this year. New York Yankees reliever Dellin Betances will be paid $508,000.
Of course, this year’s young All-Stars will be due a sizable pay raise when they become eligible for arbitration and then free agency.
Reigning AL MVP Mike Trout, 23, was rewarded by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim early in his career with a six-year, $144.5 million extension that kicked in this season. Trout is the youngest player in MLB history to reach 100 career home runs and 100 stolen bases, a feat he completed this season.
The highest-paid member of the All-Star Game is Clayton Kershaw, who will make approximately $32.5 million for the 2015 season. His $215 million contract with the Dodgers is the priciest deal ever given to a pitcher.
NL All-Stars are earning an average of $6.8 million this year, less than the AL roster’s average salary of $7.6 million.