If Theo Epstein makes $10 million annually in the five-year extension he just signed with the Cubs -- one estimate is that his salary will be only slightly more than that -- then he'll still make less in annual salary than the 115 players who made $11 million or more this season.
Epstein, generally regarded by his peers as the best executive in the sport, will make less than Colby Rasmus, and Matt Garza, and Melky Cabrera. Which means that the best baseball executives continue to be an extremely undervalued asset in the sport.
The gap between what the best executives are paid and what they probably should be paid is narrowing, after Epstein's first contract with the Cubs and after Andrew Friedman pushed the salary numbers higher in his deal with the Dodgers, and now Epstein's extension becomes the new benchmark. But the Cubs are demonstrating, in their rise to regular-season dominance since Epstein took over, how the earning potential for a superlative executive, in the right market, can dwarf that of a Matt Garza, or most players for that matter.
For decades, managers like John McGraw, Connie Mack and Lou Piniella held the greatest practical power in baseball, but as the sport has evolved to be built on analytics and player and game evaluation, broader skill sets are required to run an organization, increasing the need for really smart executives. Spending on the international market and the amateur draft has been capped, leaving fewer avenues for owners to distinguish their companies from others.