Walter Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Pedro Martinez…..What would they be paid this winter as free agents?

So in the past ten days or so, Zack Greinke has inked a six-year 148 million dollar contract with the Dodgers. For purposes of clarification, that’s 24.6 mil per year. For purposes of more clarification, that would be $822,222.22 per start, if he starts 30 games (he’s averaged 25 per season). Oh and what the hell, for even more clarification, if he pitches the same amount of innings, his next six seasons, that he has his first nine (1,492), he’ll earn $99,195.70 per inning! And if he averages 15 wins a season for the next six years, that will garner him $1,626,373.60 per win!  

In his nine-year career he has: won the Cy Young Award in 2009, the same year he led the American League with a 2.16 ERA. He led the National League in strikeouts per nine innings with the Brewers in 2011 and has never led the league in any other category. He has won 16 games twice and 15 games once.

Now don’t get me wrong, Greinke is a very good pitcher, very good; in fact the best available pitcher on this winter’s free agent market.  And here’s the short of it, Donald Zachary Greinke will draw the highest yearly salary of any pitcher in history! Not bad for the former Apopka Blue Dart, not bad at all.

Zack is 29 years old.

Within a few days from that, this young man became very wealthy.

He is Anibal Sanchez and he agreed to pitch for the Detroit Tigers for the next five years. And for agreeing to do so, the Tigers are going to pay him 80 million bucks! For purposes of clarification, that’s 16 mil per year. And for purposes of more clarification, that’s $533,333.33 per start, if he starts 30 games this year (he’s averaged 21 starts a season). This kid was 10-3 as a 22-year-old in 2006 and since then he is 38-48 for a career mark of 48-51! He will be 29 in February.

Those of you who have paid attention to this blog know that I’m a big history guy; I love the old school stuff. Therefore I have to be somewhat of a numbers guy. All that said, these signings sent me scurrying and a wondering what some of yesteryear’s pitchers would garner in today’s market. So here goes.

I have chosen three pitchers to span a century. They are, Walter Johnson, Sandy Koufax and Pedro Martinez. Not bad eh? These three, span the century, and here’s what I did. I looked at each of them at the age of 29 in an attempt to establish their worth in today’s market.

First, Walter Johnson.

Walter Johnson had 417 career wins (110 of them shutouts) and is called by many the greatest pitcher of all time.

The ‘Big Train” as he was aptly called turned 29 in November of 1916. He had ten big league seasons under his belt and a resume that was actually quite impressive. The 1916 campaign saw Johnson go 25-20 with a 1.90 ERA. It marked his fourth consecutive year in which he led the American League in wins with 36, 28, 27 and 25 respectively. It was also his fifth straight year leading the league in strikeouts, fourth straight year leading the league in complete games and innings pitched.

Walter Johnson had 12 seasons of 20 wins or more including years in which he won 33 and 36 games.

When Johnson turned 29 in the winter of ’16’ he was 232-148, had thrown 302 complete games of which 65 were shutouts. He had been an MVP once (the award was new), and he had led the American League in 42 pitching categories. If Cy Young had been an award rather than an opponent, he would have won at least three and maybe four of them.

Were he to enter the free agent market this winter, I doubt even the Dodgers would be able to scratch up the cash to pay him. But just for the hell of it let’s have a little fun. Let’s use Greinke’s per event numbers and see where the “Big Train” falls.

Paying Johnson the same per win rate as Zack would put his contract at $491,164,646 or six years at $81,860,774 per. He could be paid by the inning which would bring him $312,268,063 or $52,044,677 per annum. Or it could go to the start which would only bring him $285,311,034 for six years or $47,551,839 per season. Hell if you paid Johnson Greinke’s per start rate for his complete games only old Wally boy would get $248,311,044 or $41,385,174 a year.

Oh, and just for the record, in 1917, Johnson played for $16,000 or $695.65 per win or $49.07 per inning or $470.58 per start.

In 1917, the average household income in the United States was $800 per year. Walter Johnson’s earnings were 20 times higher than that!

Now how about a look at this guy? Sanford “Sandy” Koufax.

Sandy turned 29 in December of 1964, coming off a year which saw him win 19 games while losing just five and leading the National League, for the third straight year with a 1.74 ERA. He also led the league in shutouts as well as strikeouts per nine innings.

Having just completed his 10th year, his career record was 112-60. He had won the Cy Young Award in 1963 and had led the league in 21 collective pitching categories. If Sandy were paid by the win, he’d get $182,153,776 or $30,358,962 a season. Were it by the inning it would be $165,258,870 or $27,543,145 per year. His best option would be to be paid by the start which would bring him $190,755,555 or #31,792,592 per year.

These numbers are not too far above the contract signed by Greinke. It may seem absurd to suggest that 36 million dollars is not “too far off” however when we are dealing with an excess of 150 mil, it simply does not seem so.

However here’s the Koufax rub, if you will. In 1965 and “66” Sandy Koufax DOMINATED baseball. He won the pitching triple crown both years, the Cy Young both years and posted a new single season strikeout mark with 382 in 1965. He was 53-17 with a 1.89 ERA and 699 strikeouts.

Sandy Koufax won three Cy Young Awards when only one pitcher was selected between both leagues.

In 1965 Koufax played for $110,000 or $4230.76 per win, or $327.70 per inning or $2439.02 per start.  In 1965, the average income per American household was $6900 per year. Sandy Koufax’s salary was 16 times higher than that.

Last and certainly not least, is Pedro Martinez.


Pedro turned 29 in October of 2000. He had just completed a year in which he went 18-6, led the league with an ERA of 1.74, shutouts and strikeouts. He won his second consecutive Cy Young Award and his third in four years.

Like Greinke, he had completed nine seasons with a record of 125-56 and an ERA of 2.67. He owned three Cy Young Awards and had led the league in 19 different pitching categories.

If Pedro took “Greinke Dollars” and was paid by the win, he would sign for $182,153,776 or $30,358,962 per year! (SAME AS KOUFAX) If he were paid by the start, he’d get $173,488,420 or $28,914,807 per year. And if he were paid by the inning, he’d get $156,331,320 or $26,055,220 per season.

These numbers are even closer to Greinke’s yet after considerably more accomplishments and domination in his first nine years.   

Pedro would pitch another nine years after his 29th birthday and he went 94-44 in those seasons. Not as dominant as he once had been, he did however, win another pitching triple crown and add another 20 win season while leading the league in 13 more pitching categories.

In 2001, Pedro played for 13 million dollars. Injuries skew his stats for that year as he only pitched 116 innings and went 7-3 with a 2.39 ERA in 18 starts. That’s 1.8 million per win,  112 thousand per inning and $722,222 per start. In 2000 the average income for the American household was $45,000 per year. Pedro’s salary was 29 times higher than that.

Well there you have it. Oh wait, one more thing. The average American household in 2012 has an income of $50,502. Zack Greinke makes a little over 48 times that amount.

And as for Anibal Sanchez, good Lord what are former Tiger pitchers like Hank Aguirre, Joe Sparma and Jack Billingham thinking? Timing is everything I guess!

So what does it all mean? Actually, not really much of anything except perhaps one maybe and one absolute. Maybe, the players in the 1960s were pretty much held in check and Zack Greinke’s absolutely has got a lot of work to do!

 Timing is everything indeed!

About fenwaypark100

Hello and welcome, my name is Raymond Sinibaldi. An educator for more than two decades, a baseball fan for nearly 60 years, I have authored four books about baseball and her glorious history; with a fifth on the way in late spring of 2015; the first, The Babe in Red Stockings which was co-authored with Kerry Keene and David Hickey. It is a chronicle of Babe's days with the Red Sox. We also penned a screenplay about Babe's Red Sox days so if any of you are Hollywood inclined or would like to represent us in forwarding that effort feel free to contact me through my email. In 2012 we three amigos published Images of Fenway Park in honor of the 100th birthday of Fenway Park. That led to the creation of this blog. The following year, 2013 came my first solo venture, Spring Training in Bradenton and Sarasota. This is a pictorial history of spring training in those two Florida cities. The spring of 2014 brought forth the 1967 Red Sox, The Impossible Dream Season. The title speaks for itself and it also is a pictorial history. Many of the photos in this book were never published before. The spring of 2015 will bring 1975 Red Sox, American League Champions. Another pictorial effort, this will be about the Red Sox championship season of 1975 and the World Series that restored baseball in America. I was fortunate enough to consult with sculptor Franc Talarico on the “Jimmy Fund” statue of Ted Williams which stands outside both Fenway Park and Jet Blue Park Fenway South, in Fort Myers Florida. That story is contained in the near 300 posts which are contained herein. This blog has been dormant for awhile but 2015 will bring it back to life so jump on board, pass the word and feel free to contact me about anything you read or ideas you may have for a topic. Thanks for stopping by, poke around and enjoy. Autographed copies of all my books are available here, simply click on Raymond Sinibaldi and email me.
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2 Responses to Walter Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Pedro Martinez…..What would they be paid this winter as free agents?

  1. mhasegawa says:

    Sandy Koufax was a hero of mine when I was growing up. I followed him avidly. Of course, I thought he was making a lot of money back then. Now I understand that he lost money in the Madoff ponzi scheme and I worry about that. Money is always an issue.

  2. Always has been and always will be an issue. It appears that the owners kept the salaries pretty much in check in the 40s, 50s and 60s which of course led to the emergence of Marvin Miller. WHO SHOULD BE IN THE HALL OF FAM by the way!

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