Adjusted for inflation, buying power isn’t what it used to be in MLB

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 06: Yankee exhibit with Babe Ruth photo on display in the lobby for 'Bronx Bombers' Opening Night on Broadway at Circle in the Square Theatre on February 6, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 06: Yankee exhibit with Babe Ruth photo on display in the lobby for 'Bronx Bombers' Opening Night on Broadway at Circle in the Square Theatre on February 6, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage) /
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Kevin Brown in 2003. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Kevin Brown in 2003. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images) /

The $15 million pitcher

It did not take long for the $15 million mark to follow the $10 million mark in falling. A short two seasons after Belle got that $10 million-per-year deal from the White Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers went looking for an ace for their pitching staff.

They found him in Kevin Brown, coming off consecutive seasons in which he had taken first the Florida Marlins and then the San Diego Padres to the World Series. The Dodgers offered six years at $15.7 million per year and Brown signed.

Brown won 58 games against just 32 losses for Los Angeles, and his 2.83 ERA improved on his career 3.28 mark, so it would be unfair to assert that he was a disappointment. But the Dodgers never managed to win their division with Brown heading their rotation, so in December of 2003 they traded Brown’s final two seasons to the Yankees.

Adjusted for inflation, the $15 million Browne earned in 1999 — which translates to $24.95 million by today’s standards — will buy you a lot of pitcher. Or not.

The Washington Nationals got both the good and bad when they gave Patrick Corbin a six-year, $140 million deal prior to the 2019 season.

Corbin went 14-7 in 33 starts for Washington during their World Series run of 2019. That included a Game 7 victory in which Corbin delivered three vital bridge innings between starter Max Scherzer and closer Daniel Hudson.

So if you ascribe to the theory that any contract which brings a world championship is a good one, the Corbin deal has already paid off.

The story since 2019, of course, has been different. Corbin led the NL in losses in both 2021 and 2022, and his ERA has ballooned alarmingly, from 3.25 to 4.66 to 5.82 to 6.31.

But since Corbin will earn $24.4 million in 2023, the Nats have no viable option other than hoping for a performance turnaround, which is why their projected rotation pegs Corbin as the team’s No. 2 ace behind Strasburg.