Professional baseball players are some of the highest paid athletes in the United States, but they also play the longest schedule of all the major sports – 162 games spread out across nearly 6 months.
Then you’ve got a month-long playoff schedule and another month of spring training before the season starts. That’s a ton of time playing the game, but it’s a lot of time during the “off-season”, too.
How do ballplayers get paid, then?
Are they getting a weekly check just like “regular folks” – with the very obvious exception of their checks coming in at hundreds of thousands of dollars? Or do they get everything once a month, half of their contract every six months, or do they get everything for that year paid out in a single lump sum before the season kicks off?
We answer all of that below!
How Often Do Baseball Players Get Paid?
According to payment schedules that the Major League Baseball Players Association (the union for ballplayers) have negotiated with team ownership, players are to receive biweekly payments for their contract twice a month.
This is completely in line with the Appendix A rules and guidelines for standard contracts as outlined in the current MLBPA CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement).
At the same time, though, you should know that not every ballplayer is going to get a direct deposit every two weeks into their bank account. This is just the “default” option.
Players have all the freedom in the world to come up with their own specific payment plans that they and the team signing them are comfortable with.
Some players like a weekly schedule. Other players like a monthly direct deposit. And then of course you have some players that are willing to defer big portions of their contract years and years beyond what they have signed for to guarantee themselves regular (and quite large) paychecks well into retirement.
Bobby Bonilla and the deal he has with the New York Mets is a perfect example.
In 1991, the Mets made Bobby Bonilla the highest paid player in history (at the time). He locked up a five year contract for $29 million, and the $6.1 million he was paid in 1992 smashed the previous record by $2.3 million.
Bobby’s skills began to diminish a couple of years into the deal, though, and he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles who then traded him to the Florida Marlins in 1996. The Marlins gave him another deal, and Bobby helped the team win the World Series in 1997.
Bonilla got traded to the Dodgers in 1998, played well, and found himself traded by the Dodgers to the Mets later that year (right as the off-season started).
Bobby’s skills in 1999 dropped off big time in the Mets decided to cut him even though they still owed $5.9 million on his contract. Believing they were going to make a mint working with Bernie Madoff (a legendary New York financier turned Ponzi scheme director), they deferred Bonilla’s contract.
Bobby agreed to the deferment, a plan that changed the $5.9 million the Mets would have had to pay him into $29.8 million. The Mets didn’t have to start making payments until 2011 but will have to continue to make these annual payments of $1.19 million until 2035.
Bobby gets the whole chunk of this payment – $1.19 million every year on July 1.
What’s the Average Salary for a Baseball Player?
According to the most recent information available (2022 contract details), the average major-league ballplayer makes $4.38 million.
Now, obviously, that takes into account every single contract in baseball – including the mammoth contracts paid out to players like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, etc.
Looking at the median salary for ballplayers gives us a better idea of what “most” players are making (a ballpark figure, anyway) – and that comes in at just north of $1.5 million a year.
Not bad, especially when that means your average player is making close to $10,000 every single game they play over a 162 game season.
That means in a regular three-game series your everyday, run-of-the-mill journeyman ballplayer is going to be making the same kind as the median income in the United States ($31,133 as of 2019 data).
That’s a pretty big chunk of change!
Do Players Get Paid After They Stop Playing?
As we mentioned a moment ago with our Bobby Bonilla story, there are a lot of players that decide to build deferments into their contract plans so that they can guarantee themselves a pretty decent income well into their retirement.
On top of that, a lot of players (and a lot of agents) are a lot more financially savvy than they used to be in the past.
Most contracts have some kind of payment plan to cover retirement expenses, but MLB players can also earn a full pension just by playing for 10 years in the league.
At the end of the day, players are going to get paid at least twice a month every month – including in the off-season – based on the contract default rules established in the most current CBA.
Ballplayers, however, have the opportunity and the option to modify those payment rules in any way they see fit.
Some players like to frontload their deals, getting paid large lump sums a handful of times each year directly into their bank account.
Other players, though, opt for contract deferments that allow teams to pay them a little less than their contract dictates each year – freeing up cash flow – in return for significantly larger (and guaranteed) payments well after their playing days are over.
All in all, ballplayers (and their paycheck schedule) aren’t a whole lot different than regular folks punching a clock and getting paid on a weekly or biweekly basis.
Sure, they end up getting a whole lot more in their paycheck every week or every two weeks – but they get it direct deposited directly into their bank accounts just the same way almost everyone else does!