Top 10 Highest Paid MLB Relief Pitchers

Top 10 Highest Paid MLB Relief Pitchers

MLB relief pitchers don’t earn as much as starting pitchers do, but they can still get paid a significant salary. Part of the reason for their big salaries is the absence of a salary cap in the MLB, meaning teams can out-bid each other without having to sacrifice at other positions. These 10 pitchers have the highest 2022 salary out of all MLB relievers. 

Who are the highest paid MLB relief pitchers in the world?

  1. David Price - $32,000,000
  2. Aroldis Chapman - $18,000,000
  3. Craig Kimbrel - $16,000,000
  4. Kenley Jansen - $16,000,000
  5. Yusei Kikuchi - $16,000,000
  6. Zack Britton - $14,000,000
  7. Liam Hendriks - $13,333,333
  8. Will Smith - $13,000,000
  9. Josh Hader - $11,000,000
  10. Edwin Diaz - $10,200,000

1. David Price - $32,000,000

David Price is currently tied to a seven-year, $217 million contract, and will be paid $32 million in 2022. He spent the bulk of his career as a dominant starting pitcher, but now at age 37 he finds himself as a reliever on a star-studded Dodgers roster. Price is a former #1 overall pick from the 2007 MLB Draft. He played college ball at Vanderbilt, and was drafted by Tampa Bay. 

Price has been traded three times in his career. In 2014, Price was traded to Detroit in a three-team trade. He was traded again a year later, this time to Toronto in exchange for three players. Then, early in 2020, Price was traded from the Red Sox to the Dodgers, along with Mookie Betts. 

2. Aroldis Chapman - $18,000,000

Aroldis Chapman is a fiery closer from Cuba, who was undrafted. The contract which currently employs Chapman, a three-year, $48 million deal, was signed on November 3rd, 2019. Chapman was first signed to an MLB contract in 2010, when the Cincinnati Reds snatched him. Chapman made headlines for his velocity: he holds the record for fastest MLB pitch ever thrown. On September 24th, 2010, Chapman’s fastball was clocked at 105.1 miles per hour. 

The New York Yankees traded to acquire Chapman in 2015, before trading him away to the Cubs in 2016. Chapman won a World Series with the Cubs, and then returned to New York via free agency.

3. Craig Kimbrel - $16,000,000

Craig Kimbrel is currently tied to a three-year, $43 million contract. He will be paid $16 million in 2022. Craig Kimbrel has played for six different teams across his 13 year MLB career: Atlanta, San Diego, Boston, the Chicago Cubs, the Chicago White Sox, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kimbrel’s longest stay was with Atlanta, where he spent his first five MLB seasons. The 34 year old is chasing history, and has a chance to end up in the top five in saves among all MLB closers.

4. Kenley Jansen - $16,000,000

Kenley Jansen is currently tied to a one-year, $16 million contract. He ranks eighth all-time in MLB saves. Unlike Kimbrel, Jansen has spent almost all of his career in the same place. From 2010 to 2021, Jansen was with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Only in the most recent season, 2022, did Jansen ever play for a new team. He is currently with the Atlanta Braves.

5. Yusei Kikuchi - $16,000,000

Yusei Kikuchi is currently on a three-year, $36 million deal. He went undrafted before signing with Seattle in 2019. After playing for the Mariners for three years, the Japanese reliever signed with Toronto prior to the 2022 season. 

Kikuchi makes a lot of money for a relief pitcher who has not made a name for himself in the MLB. His three seasons with Seattle were disappointing, especially after he showed dominance in Japan’s Pacific league. The fact that Toronto inked him to such a large deal suggests that Kikuchi still has more to give. 

6. Zack Britton - $14,000,000

Zack Britton is currently playing on a three-year, $39 million deal, and will make $14 million in 2022. Four of the top six highest paid relievers are on the Yankees or Dodgers. Britton is the fourth that fits the bill, as he has been a Yankee ever since Baltimore traded him to New York in 2018.

Britton was a 2006 3rd round pick in the MLB Draft. Despite being the sixth highest paid reliever in 2022, he appeared in only three regular season games, and only recorded two outs. Britton struggled mightily in his limited outings, allowing six walks total. 

7. Liam Hendriks - $13,333,333

Liam Hendricks is currently tied to a three-year, $54 million contract, and will be paid $13.3 million in 2022. He is yet another reliever who was not drafted. Hendricks broke into the MLB in 2007, when the Twins offered him a contract. In 2014, he was traded to Kansas City along with Erik Kratz in order to acquire Danny Valencia. 

He signed with Toronto in 2015, only to be traded eight months later to Oakland. He stayed with Oakland for many seasons, before signing with the White Sox in January of 2021. 

8. Will Smith - $13,000,000

Will Smith was the 229th player selected in the 2008 MLB Draft. He was selected by the Angels, though he never played a game for them. Instead, Smith has spent his career playing for Kansas City, Milwaukie, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Houston. 

The contract which is currently paying Smith a salary of $13 million was signed in 2019, when Smith played for San Francisco. On August 2nd, 2022, Smith was traded to the Houston Astros. 

9. Josh Hader - $11,000,000

Josh Hader will make $11 million in 2022. He was a 19th round draft pick in 2012. Hader spent the first five and a half years of his MLB career with Milwaukie, before being traded to San Diego midseason in 2022. 

Hader has racked up 132 career saves, including 70 in his last 2 seasons. Hader’s current contract was signed in March of 2022, while Hader was still with Milwaukie. The $11 million deal helped Hader and the Brewers avoid arbitration. 

10. Edwin Diaz - $10,200,000

Edwin Diaz is currently playing on a one-year, $10.2 million contract. He was dominant as the Mets’ closer in 2022, notching 32 saves. Diaz posted an ERA of 1.31 in 2022, and managed 118 strikeouts while only walking 18 batters

Diaz was originally drafted by Seattle, in the third round of the 2012 MLB Draft. He was traded to the Mets in 2018, along with Robinson Cano, as part of a six player trade. Diaz’s current deal was signed on March 22nd of 2022.

Honorable Mentions

  • Felipe Vazquez - $10,000,000
  • Raisel Iglesias - $10,000,000
  • Corey Knebel - $10,000,000
  • Drew Pomeranz - $10,000,000
  • Ryan Pressly - $10,000,000
  • Stephen Matz - $8,500,000
  • Matt Barnes - $8,125,000
  • Will Harris - $8,000,000
  • Blake Treinen - $8,000,000
  • Kendall Graveman - $8,000,000
  • Hector Neris - $8,000,000

FAQ

Who is the highest paid relief pitcher in the MLB?

David Price has the highest 2022 salary of any MLB relief pitcher, at $32 million. Price makes nearly double what the next player on this list makes. This is partially because Price signed his deal while he was still a starting pitcher. Starting pitchers tend to make more money in the MLB. Price also has a certain ethos, since he was drafted first overall.