Philosophy change could push BoSox over tax threshold

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WEEI’s Alex Speier has a great look at Boston’s new payroll in light of the Marco Scutaro, John Lackey and Mike Cameron signings and how the team might join the Yankees in paying the luxury tax in 2010.
According to Speier’s figures, the Red Sox have a projected luxury-tax payroll of $168.07 million, barely short of the $170 million threshold. That’s even taking into account the Mike Lowell trade, which would add an additional $3 million to the payroll if it falls through.
It wouldn’t be a huge deal if the Red Sox did surpass the threshold for a year — they’d simply be taxed at 22.5 percent of whatever they spent above $170 million — but the simple fact that they’re threatening it after years of staying clear is interesting. The last time they were taxed was 2004, when they paid around $6 million after winning their first World Series in 86 years (a fair trade in the opinion of most).
Of course, the Boston payroll still wouldn’t be $170 million. The payroll as calculated for tax purposes uses average annual salaries and also includes a uniform $10.5 million hit for player benefits.
And it’s the average annual salaries that would bite the Red Sox here. Prior to last year, the team was so conscious of its position straddling the luxury tax that it avoided signing young players to long-term deals. That changed as Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jon Lester all received extensions that kept them into their free agent years.
And it’s those contracts that could put the Red Sox over the top. In reality, those three players, all of whom signed extensions last winter, will earn $16.375 million next season. However, for tax purposes, they’re valued at $23.03 million.
Those deals still figure to pay off big in the long run. And come 2012, the Red Sox will actually be making out for luxury tax purposes, since the players will be earning more than the average value of their deals. But for 2010, it could mean that the Boston coffers will take a modest hit.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.