Whether you’re at a sports bar or shooting the breeze at work, it’s always fun to talk about how much money athletes make.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of sports salaries is the arbitrary value assigned to a player based on market demand, often in discordance with their performance (see Mike Glennon). Once a certain skill level is reached, timing, more than anything, often determines a player’s fortune or misfortune.
For instance, if you asked fans to name the highest-paid Chicago athlete, most would probably guess Cubs pitcher Jon Lester.
That would be wrong.
With Dwyane Wade taking the buyout from the Bulls, Jason Heyward owns Chicago’s No. 1 spot at $21.5 million in base salary. Wade was slated to make $23.8 million had he stayed for the final year of his contract.
OK, so Lester isn’t even the top-paid Cub, but he has to be the highest-paid pitcher, right?
That would be White Sox veteran James Shields, who makes a cool $21 million despite his 5-7 record and 5.23 ERA this season.
According to base salaries compiled by Spotrac.com, 73 Chicago athletes can call themselves millionaires. That’s a far cry from three decades ago, when there was one — a retiring Walter Payton, who made exactly
Here are some of the more interesting anomalies that jump out from the list:
• With his $8 million in base pay from the Cubs, Jon Jay banks more than teammates Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Addison Russell, Willson Contreras, Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber combined.
• Bulls center Robin Lopez makes $13.78 million. Bulls backup center Christiano Felicio makes $7.84 million. Three-time Blackhawks Stanley Cup winners Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane each make $7.8 million.
• Cubs pitcher John Lackey has a base salary of $16 million. That’s more than the entire White Sox roster makes, minus Shields, Jose Abreu ($10 million) and Avisail Garcia ($3 million).
• Bulls guard Justin Holiday, who has started 13 games since joining the NBA in 2013, will be paid $4.6 million this season. That’s more than the combined base salaries of Bears linebacker and 2016 Super Bowl champ Danny Trevathan ($2 million), National League MVP and World Series winner Bryant ($1.05 million) and five-time NHL All-Star and three-time Stanley Cup champ Marian Hossa ($1 million).
• Bastian Schweinsteiger is the seventh-highest-paid player in MLS and will make $5.4 million in his first season with the Fire. Four-time All-Star and three-time Stanley Cup winner Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks is in his 13th season and will make $5 million.
As for Glennon, who was demoted to backup this week, his base salary is $8 million, but he’s guaranteed about $18.5 million. New starter Mitch Trubisky has a base salary of $465,000, but his signing bonus as the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft puts him at almost $20 million. The player they replaced, Jay Cutler, will make $5 million in base salary and $10 million guaranteed from the Dolphins. In addition, Cutler will collect $2 million from the Bears.
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According to Spotrac.com, 79 Chicago athletes are making a base salary of $1 million or more in 2017. But players’ salaries don’t always correspond to their worth. For instance, White Sox starter James Shields, who won only five games this season, is making nearly $20 million more than the Cubs’ Kris Bryant, the 2016 National League MVP.
Jason Heyward, Cubs $21,500,000
James Shields, White Sox $21,000,000
Jon Lester, Cubs $20,000,000
Ben Zobrist, Cubs $16,000,000
John Lackey, Cubs $16,000,000
Jake Arrieta, Cubs $15,637,500
Robin Lopez, Bulls $13,788,500
Nikola Mirotic, Bulls $12,500,000
Jose Abreu, White Sox $10,825,000
Wade Davis, Cubs $10,000,000
Jon Jay, Cubs $8,000,000
Mike Glennon, Bears $8,000,000
Cristiano Felicio, Bulls $7,843,500
Patrick Kane, Hawks $7,800,000
Jonathan Toews, Hawks $7,800,000
Akiem Hicks, Bears $7,000,000
Anthony Rizzo, Cubs $7,000,000
Jose Quintana, Cubs $7,000,000
Pernell McPhee, Bears $6,950,000
Brandon Saad, Hawks $6,250,000
Kyle Long, Bears $6,250,000
Corey Crawford, Hawks $6,000,000
Koji Uehara, Cubs $6,000,000
Hector Rondon, Cubs $5,800,000
Pedro Strop, Cubs $5,500,000
Bastian Schweinsteiger, Fire $5,400,000
Duncan Keith, Hawks $5,000,000
Artem Anisimov, Hawks $5,000,000
Leonys Martin, Cubs $4,850,000
Josh Sitton, Bears $4,650,000
Justin Holiday, Bulls $4,615,385
Connor Murphy, Hawks $4,600,000
Brent Seabrook, Hawks $4,500,000
Bobby Massie, Bears $4,200,000
Kris Dunn, Bulls $4,046,760
Quincy Pondexter, Bulls $3,853,931
Laui Markkanen, Bulls $3,821,640
Jerrell Freeman, Bears $3,750,000
Prince Amukamara, Bears $3,500,000
Zach LaVine, Bulls $3,202,218
Avisail Garcia, White Sox $3,000,000
Markus Wheaton, Bears $3,000,000
Marcus Cooper, Bears $3,000,000
Richard Panik, Hawks $2,800,000
Justin Wilson, Cubs $2,700,000
Quintin Demps, Bears $2,500,000
Cameron Payne, Bulls $2,203,440
Denzel Valentine, Bulls $2,186,400
Geovany Soto, White Sox $2,000,000
Danny Trevathan, Bears $2,000,000
Dion Sims, Bears $2,000,000
Brian Duensing, Cubs $2,000,000
Alex Avila, Cubs $2,000,000
Nate Jones, White Sox $1,900,000
Justin Grimm, Cubs $1,825,000
Charles Leno, Bears $1,797,000
Rene Rivera, Cubs $1,750,000
Kyle Fuller, Bears $1,740,955
Jerian Grant, Bulls $1,713,840
Nemanja Nikolic, Fire $1,700,000
Jarell Eddie, Bulls $1,524,305
Bobby Portis, Bulls $1,516,320
Zach Miller, Bears $1,500,000
David Nwaba, Bulls $1,312,611
Diamond Stone, Bulls $1,312,611
Paul Zipser, Bulls $1,312,611
Kendall Wright, Bears $1,250,000
Zach Putnam, White Sox $1,175,000
Leonard Floyd, Bears $1,167,403
Kris Bryant, Cubs $1,050,000
Marian Hossa, Hawks $1,000,000
Lance Bouma, Hawks $1,000,000
Cody Franson, Hawks $1,000,000
Willie Young, Bears $1,000,000
Mark Sanchez, Bears $1,000,000
Tom Compton, Bears $1,000,000
Christian Jones, Bears $1,000,000
Sherrick McManis, Bears $1,000,000
Mitch Unrein, Bears $1,000,000