CHART OF THE DAY: The Highest-Paid Baseball Player In Each Of The Last 25 Years

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The Cardinals have begun negotiations with Albert Pujols on a contract extension. The big question is whether or not the Cardinals, a team with a payroll ($93.5M) less than half that of the Yankees ($206.3M), can afford to give Pujols an Alex Rodriguez-type contract.

We already know that Pujols is looking for “A-Rod money,” and we have speculated on whether Pujols is worth $40 million per season. So it is quite possible that any extension would make Pujols the highest-paid player in baseball. If so, it would be only the third time since 2000 that Alex Rodriguez wasn’t the highest-paid player in baseball.

And if Pujols does exceed Rodriguez’ 2010 salary of $33.0 million, it would be another uptick among the highest-paid. If we assume Pujols will be paid $35.0 million in 2011, that would represent a more than 1500% increase since Mike Schmidt was the highest-paid player in 1985 at $2.1 million.

Here is a the highest-paid player and their salary for every year since 1985 (data via…