Here is the dialogue between Billy and David in Moneyball:

Billy Beane: You think you're special?

David Justice: Well, you are paying me 8 million dollars a year, so yeah.

Billy Beane: No, no. We aren't paying you. The Yankees are paying half of your salary. The Yankees are paying you 4 million dollars to play against them

What is Billy trying to say? That Yankees are paying someone else 12 million dollars instead of paying David 8 million dollars? Or that Yankees would pay David only 4 million dollars?

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    This is why I like this site, as it made me research and learn something new about something I have more of a passing interest in. An excellent question.
    – MattD
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 13:37
  • Well, first, it was $7 million, not 8. This was a bit of a motivational thing - he was telling Justice, "The Yankees think you're over the hill. They think you're done. And they're so certain of it they're paying $3.5 million to be rid of you. On the other hand, we're paying $3.5 million to have you here. And here's what I want you to do for your $3.5 mill...". Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 11:38
  • This type of question would also be on topic on Sports.
    – mmyers
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 15:51

3 Answers 3


Something similar to this situation is apparently going on right now with the Yankees.

As far as I can tell, the Yankees want to trade Brian McCann but he's under contract through 2018 for $17 million a year, or $34 million total. So, the Yankees are willing to trade him to the Braves and cover half his salary in return for a few decent players from the Braves as well, which would save them $17 million over the course of two years, which is money they can then use to acquire other players.

So, based on this, it would seem the Yankees dumped him as he was an older, slower, and at the time injured and under performing player, thus a liability to the Yankees in terms of the sport as well as on the payroll, sucking up money they could likely use to land a newer, better player.

In real life Justice was first traded to the Mets, who then offloaded him to the Athletics where he spent his final season.

The deal was apparently done to dump as much of his salary as possible onto another team to free up payroll, thus the Yankees literally were paying half his salary for Justice to play against them rather than for them.

Given Justice's attitude in the film, it was Beane's way of letting Justice know he's there by their good graces alone because he fits within the new team building strategy he's using, and because if the Yankees could have just dropped him they would have, but they couldn't and instead sent him to a team that was willing to cover at least half his remaining contract's agreed upon salary. Otherwise if the Yankees had their way, they would have dropped Justice and he'd have nothing.

UPDATE: Per input from LarsTech in the comments, the Yankees could have still dropped Justice if they wanted, but evidently most contracts in baseball are guarantees, so even if they dropped him they would still owe him the remaining $8 million. Therefore, trading him and getting another team to pay at least half of that amount still freed up $4 million for the Yankees to use in signing one or more players to replace Justice, but the point of Beane noting this to Justice, I feel, is accurate albeit with a slightly more malicious intent.

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    Actually, it's probably the other way around. The only way a team would take David Justice in a trade is if the Yankees agree to continue to pay part of the contract. I don't believe there was any kind of salary cap or luxury tax back then, so the Yankees really don't need to free up salary space (they make boat loads of money). They just wanted to get rid of a player they no longer thought could help them, and the Mets offered Robin Ventura for him (the Wikipedia page doesn't mention any money exchanges). A week later David Justice gets traded to the Oakland A's for a couple of pitchers.
    – LarsTech
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 15:28
  • Also, the A's were doing Justice a favor by keeping him on the field instead of being forcibly retired. His marketability was slightly better as a has-been on the field than a has-been drinking beer on the couch - slightly better chance for him to get sponsorship money.
    – Xalorous
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 19:29

It's a pretty common occurrence in professional sports for a team to be responsible for part of a player's salary if they are traded midway through a contract. Alex Rodriguez was paid by the Rangers while he was a Yankee.

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    I would add that this generally happens when the player is overpaid (i.e. is making more money than he is objectively worth).
    – Jer
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 15:44

The salaries are locked in while the players are under contract. If I dump a player via waivers during the season and no one picks them up, I'm on the hook for their contracted amount for the rest of that season. If I waive a player and they get picked up, the new team pays their salary, and I don't have to pay any more.

If I trade a player to a new team, the new team picks up that contracted salary amount unless the player agrees to renegotiate the contract, which not many will do. Further complicating the matter is some players have "no trade" clauses that only allow them to be traded if they agree with the deal.

What happened was that, while they wanted the player, Justice, they didn't think he was worth $8M a year, or couldn't afford to add that to their team expenses.

The Yankees wanted to make room for another player, and didn't want to continue paying Justice $8M a year. Sometimes a team will agree to keep paying a portion of the player's salary to facilitate the trade. He's describing that the Yankees agreed to pay half of the salary Justice was under contract for, and turning Justice's "I must be awesome if you're paying me $8M" around to "not only are we not paying you that much, your old team is paying $4M to be rid of you and we're in the same league as them."

The Oakland As get a player with some value left, but at $4M per year. The Yankees make room for another player they value more, and save $4M from what they would have been paying Justice.

  • FYI, It's not quite that straightforward on waivers in the MLB: bleacherreport.com/articles/…
    – Sacrilege
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 19:24
  • The waiver process is not straightforward, because it can be revoked and become a trade, but none of that contradicts what I said. The revocation process and options of waivers really has no relevance to what the OP was asking, so I didn't feel the need to complicate it unnecessarily. That process in no way contradicts what I wrote about who has to pay for the salary. Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 20:52
  • Understood, but I commented simply because what you wrote is actually inaccurate. Waivers don't work that way. Furthermore, if it is extraneous to the actual answer then perhaps it's better if you just remove it.
    – Sacrilege
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 21:28
  • Nothing I wrote in there is inaccurate, nothing in my posting contradicts anything in that article. Justice was not claimed on waivers, he was straight-up traded, after the season and before the next, and not in the period between the end of the trading deadline and the end of the season. I think maybe you don't understand what you're talking about, if you think there is some conflict between what I wrote and that article. At no point do I talk about the waiver process, I only talk about liabilities in regards to salaries in trade vs. waive, which is confirmed by that article. Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 20:03

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