After taking a look at minimum and average salaries, I wanted to look at the average salary of the best major leaguers and see if the same trends applied to the top of the talent pool.

Method:  For this group, I did something more than the straight average of All-Star salaries.  I took a weighted average based on the player’s B-ref WAR for that season.  For each league and each season (I looked at the AL and NL All-Star squads separately) I added up the total WAR of the team.  A player’s weight was their individual WAR divided by the team’s WAR.  This weight multiplied by the player’s salary gave that player’s contribution to the average, with the sum of all the contributions giving the average.  This was done so that the MVP caliber player, who is more assured at being in the top of the talent pool, had more of an effect on the average.

all star salaries

(WAR and salary data from baseball-reference.  All-star rosters from MLB.com)

 

The averages have remained fairly consistent over the past 5 years, with the NL staying more flat than the AL.  The NL even has a slight down trend, but this is due to the high point ($7.3M) occurring in 2011, the second year of the data set.  The biggest take away from this chart is the AL is consistently at least over $1M more than the NL.  My initial thought was that an All-Star might be worth more to an AL team than an NL team because the DH makes it possible for AL managers to give “half days off” and get more value over a full season than NL managers.  After seeing this trend, I thought it might be helpful to look at two groups of salary: those players making six figures (pre-Arb) and those making eight figures.  Below is the chart of how many players were making six figures in a given year for each league:

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
AL 7 8 5 9 5
NL 6 8 12 14 8

 

The NL has consistently more players making six figures, with the trend becoming more pronounced over time.  It is also makes sense that the biggest gap between the AL and NL comes during the same year that the NL has the biggest edge in six-figure salary All-Stars.  The NL could eventually get closer to the AL when these players hit free agency and/or sign extensions, and fewer pre-arb players make the All-Star team.  Clayton Kershaw, for example accounted for a season of six-figure All-Star salary, but will likely make eight-figure salaries the rest of his All-Star career, if not his career period.  This is true for both leagues, but with an influx of youth in this sample, the NL could creep upward at a greater rate than the AL and eventually settle closer to even.  To get a more complete picture of the story, let’s look at the number of players making eight-figures for each league:

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
AL 14 15 18 12 17
NL 7 9 9 11 10

 

This matches perfectly with the graph and previous chart.  The high point for the AL is in the year where they have the most players making eight-figures and the least making six-figures over the five-year period.  However, the NL’s highpoint doesn’t come during the season where the most players are making eight-figures, but they do have 14 players making six-figures that year, helping to cancel that out. That can be explained by weights by WAR, and that generally a player making six-figures needs a better WAR (which indicates a better performance) to make the All-Star team since he lacks name recognition meaning he will pull down on average significantly compared to his peers.

Overall, All-Stars on average make somewhere between 150% to 200% more than the average player.  While pre-arb guys would be happy just to see seven-figures, the best compensated players can make almost three times the average.  The lesson: a pre-free agency All-Star is the best asset a team can possess, since an annual All-Star can cost $20M+ in free agency.  The top of the league is well compensated.

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