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It’s not just A-Rod: Players paid millions even after careers end

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Alex Rodriguez is about to become a very well paid spectator. But not the best paid one.

When the Yankees star ends his playing career Friday, he will still be owed nearly $27 million for the rest of this season and all of the next. The Yankees say he’ll get every penny.

That’s because Major League Baseball contracts are guaranteed. Pretty good non-work. If you can get it.

Take Carl Crawford. The outfielder was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 13 — still owed $33.6 million for this year and next, according to data from salary tracker Spotrac.

Crawford’s and Rodriguez’s releases came because they were no longer playing well enough to justify taking up a roster spot. Other stars got paid a lot after their final game because injuries ended their careers.

The biggest was the $36.9 million that slugger Albert Belle received from 2001 through 2003, according to Baseball-Reference.com. His final game was at the end of the 2000 season.

Just behind Belle was Mo Vaughn, who got paid $31.1 million by the New York Mets after his final game in 2003.

But there are big dollar stars who could top those post-playing career payouts if they’re unable to return from current injuries.

Texas Rangers designated hitter Prince Fielder has been sidelined since July 18 with a herniated disc in his neck. About $10 million of his 2016 salary was due to him since that last game, and he’s due an additional $96 million through the 2020 season.

New York Mets third baseman David Wright recently had surgery to deal with the same condition. He last played on May 27, meaning about $14 million of this year’s salary will be paid while he’s not playing. He’s also due an additional $67 million over the next four seasons.

Sometimes it just makes sense for a team to bite the bullet and cut loose a big star even if they’re on the hook for tens of millions, said Vince Gennaro, a salary consultant to major league teams.

“It’s really a case-by-case situation,” he said. “I can make a case where it makes sense to keep a popular player even if they’re not producing. I think in the end, since A-Rod wasn’t playing, he’s too high profile for that not to be a distraction.”

Some players are paid millions after retirement because they agreed to defer some of their salary while playing.

Among the most famous deferred payments is the $1.2 million that former player Bobby Bonilla is due every year starting in 2011 and running through 2035. Total: $29 million, according to Spotrac. Bonilla last played in 2001.

Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez and current Miami Marlin Ichiro Suzuki are all owed tens of millions of deferred money.

A-Rod will also be paid an additional amount by the Yankees in his new job: adviser to the team. The Yankees won’t say how much.

“He has the ability to be an agent if he ever wanted to,” Yankees General Manager said Brian Cashman. “He can negotiate the heck out of it. He negotiated probably the greatest contract in the history of sports.”