Stephen Strasburg, exit stage left, your run as MLB’s highest-paid pitcher with your $245 million contract was short-lived. Step on up, Gerrit Cole, owner of a new, nine-year, $324 million contract, courtesy of the New York Yankees. Both pitchers shattered the previous record contract for a pitcher, so I thought it would be fun to look through baseball history and ask: How did we get here?
Starting with Catfish Hunter’s landmark contract for the 1975 season, let’s go back and find the pitchers who set the marks for highest total value contract.
Dec. 31, 1974: Catfish Hunter, five years, $3.2 million (Yankees)
Quote: “I hung up the phone, turned to my wife and said, ‘We don’t belong to anybody.’ I was scared. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t realize the implications.” — Hunter
Hunter became baseball’s first free agent in the modern era due to carelessness or, more likely, abject hubris on the part of A’s owner Charlie Finley. In 1974, players were still bound to their teams by the reserve clause, which anchored a player to his team with little negotiating power. That was challenged in 1975, opening the door for the free-agent era to begin following the 1976 season, but Hunter’s case…