ST. PETERSBURG — B.J. Upton will be eying more than a World Series ring and the prestige that comes with it when he strides to centerfield for Game 2 tonight.
He'll be playing to double his 2008 salary.
While the focus this week will be on winning baseball's biggest prize, for young players such as Upton, Dioner Navarro and Matt Garza, the spectacle also means potentially cashing in on a significant playoff windfall.
Young players who make near the minimum baseball salary can almost double their paycheck because of baseball's playoff bonus payouts.
Last year, the World Series champion Boston Red Sox players split $18.89-million. In 2006, St. Louis Cardinals players took home an extra $20.02-million.
That translates to at least $300,000 a player.
"That's a lot of money for four wins," Rays pitcher David Price said. "Trust me, everyone in this locker room has thought about it.''
Major-league players are paid for making the playoffs based on how far their team advances. Every playoff team — and even those that fall just short — receive a percentage of ticket sales from playoff and World Series games.
The World Series winner receives 36 percent of the total pot — $54.51-million in 2007 — and the loser receives 24 percent. The rest is divided among the other playoff teams.
For the Rays, the difference between winning and losing amounts to about $6-million. Depending on how many players receive a bonus check, that could mean around $150,000 a player.
"If A-Rod gets an extra $300,000, it probably doesn't affect him that much," Rays president Matt Silverman said. "But for a player making $400,000 who does not know what the future holds, the money can be big."
That's because the Major League Baseball salary structure rewards players for longevity, not necessarily performance. In most cases, teams pay players whatever they want during a player's first three years with the club.
Compare Rays pitcher Garza and Phillies hurler Brett Myers. Garza, who is in his first full major-league season, is making $404,600 this year — $14,600 more than the major-league minimum salary. Garza, 24, had 11 wins this year, gave up on average of less than four runs a game and was named MVP of the American League Championship Series.
Myers, meanwhile, will make $8.58-million despite one less win on the season and a higher earned run average. Myers is 28 and in his sixth full major-league season.
Plus, if Garza and Myers got hurt and never pitched another game, Myers would still make $12-million in 2009 while Garza would get almost nothing.
For the Rays, there are similar stories throughout the roster. The team ranks 29th out of 30 teams for salaries, and more than half the Rays' postseason roster is making less than $500,000 in 2008.
"We joke around about it a bit," Garza said. "But it's all about getting that ring. … If money's involved, great, but we want to get that ring."
The 2008 salaries of the 25 players on the Rays' World Series roster:
Carlos Pena $6-million
Carl Crawford $5.25-million
Scott Kazmir $3.785-million
Chad Bradford $3.5-million
Dan Wheeler $2.8-million
Cliff Floyd $2.75-million
Akinori Iwamura $2.4-million
Rocco Baldelli $2.25-million
Trever Miller $1.6-million
James Shields $1-million
David Price $650,000
Grant Balfour $500,000
Evan Longoria $500,000
Jason Bartlett $416,600
Gabe Gross $414,000
Edwin Jackson $412,700
Dioner Navarro $412,500
B.J. Upton $412,100
Matt Garza $404,600
Willy Aybar $401,200
J.P. Howell $397,400
Andy Sonnanstine $395,800
Ben Zobrist $395,800
Michel Hernandez $390,000
Fernando Perez $390,000