Alex Rodriguez re-signed with the New York Yankees in December, 2007 in a 10-year, $275 million deal that was the richest deal in the history of sports. The consensus was that the Yankees overpaid in both years and dollars, but A-Rod was still regarded as the best player in the game at the time. He had just won his third MVP award in five years and was well on his way to breaking the all-time home run record. He couldn’t match his teammate Derek Jeter on marketability, but Rodriguez still ranked among the top 10% of celebrities when it came to likability. Those days are long gone.
A-Rod’s reputation was forever tarnished by his 2009 admission of using a banned substance, after a damning Sports Illustrated expose. His performance on the field has fallen off dramatically with five straight years of declining slugging percentages.
A-Rod has been out of the spotlight since the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs by the Detroit Tigers. It was miserable postseason for Rodriguez where he batted .120 and was benched. Things have only gotten worse. He had hip surgery in January that is expected to keep him out of action until after the All-Star break, and now A-Rod is being investigated by Major League Baseball regarding allegations that he received PEDs from a Florida anti-aging clinic.
The formerly marketable A-Rod has come crashing down. He ranked No. 244 on “appeal” in 2008 among celebrities in the Marketing Arm’s Davie Brown Index, which measures people’s perceptions of celebrities and their influence on brands. His ranked dropped to 1,039 after the steroid admission and last year was 2,713 out of nearly 2,900 celebrities.
Rodriguez's endorsement deals with Nike and Rawlings used to be among the highest in baseball. He still uses products from both companies, but no longer gets paid for it. A-Rod is an investor in Vita Coco coconut water, but is not a paid spokesperson. His off-field income has dwindled to an estimated $500,000 from memorabilia and other small deals. Rodriguez has become toxic for big companies.
Yet, thanks to his massive playing contract, A-Rod remains the highest-paid player in the sport with total earnings of $29.5 million in 2013. His base salary this year is $28 million with the Yankees, and he also received a $1 million installment in January on the $10 million signing bonus to his landmark $275 million deal.
A-Rod is still owed $117 million from the Yankees for the last five years of his agreement, including the final $3 million payment of his signing bonus. The Yankees potentially are also on the hook for a series of $6 million bonuses, if he reaches certain historic career home run thresholds. He is only 13 dingers short of the first one, 660, which is the career total of Willie Mays.
Jeter is No. 2 with 2013 earnings of $26 million. The Yankee captain remains the sport's top pitchman thanks to deals with Nike, Gatorade, Ford Motor, Movado, Steiner Sports, Rawlings, 24-hour Fitness and Avon Products. Jeter originally worked with Avon in 2006 and teamed up again with the personal care company in 2012 after his Gillette deal expired. Avon launched a line of Jeter colognes and body washes under the Driven brand. Jeter makes an estimated $9 million annually from endorsements and licensing.
Jeter is in the final year of the three-year deal he signed before the 2011 season. He has a player option for 2014 in his contract that jumped $1.5 million to $9.5 million when Jeter won the Silver Slugger award in 2012. The option would have jumped a further $2 million if Jeter finished in the top six of the MVP voting (he finished 7th).
Baseball stars earn their living on the diamond, with the ten highest paid pulling down $237 million in salary and only $14 million from endorsements. Only Jeter ($9 million) and fourth-ranked overall Joe Mauer ($2.5 million) make seven figures from corporate partners among the top 10 earners. Fortunately for players, teams are flushing with TV cash and are doling out $100 million contracts like candy corn.
Two pitchers hit the jackpot this winter with contracts that will pay a combined $49 million this year. Felix Hernandez inked a seven-year, $175 million contract extension in February with the Seattle Mariners that will pay him $25 million in 2013, including a $6 million signing bonus.
His income got a boost from memorabilia and licensing demands after his perfect game in August. It was only the 23rd perfect game in MLB history. King Felix is expected to pull in $250,000 in earnings off the field in 2013 from memorabilia and endorsement partners: Nike, PepsiCo, Phiten and 2K Sports. He ranks No. 5 overall with earnings of $25.3 million.
Zack Grienke comes in at No. 7 with earnings of $24.1 million. As the top free-agent pitcher on the market, he signed a six-year, $147 million deal in December with the newly, free-spending Los Angeles Dodgers. Grienke’s deal included a $12 million signing bonus in which $7 million will be paid in 2013.
Grienke has an equipment deal with Nike, but otherwise does little off the field with annual earnings of $50,000. He will have more endorsement opportunities in Los Angeles after nine years in small markets Kansas City and Milwaukee, particularly if he delivers the Dodgers their first World Series title in 25 years.