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.

The Brewers have been “aggressive” in their trade talks for Justin Wilson

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I love the trade deadline. Yeah, it’s cool that players get traded, influencing pennant races and all that jazz, but I also love it for the terminology.

So many “internal discussions” and so much tire-kicking. Just today I heard that a team has “gotten some feelers” for a player. That sounds kinda dirty, but in a good wholesome PG-13 sort of way. It’s two solid weeks of euphemism, really.

Sometimes, though, it gets scary. Like the way the Brewers are said to be talking about Justin Wilson of the Tigers:

I suppose if you’re “hanging on for dear life” that even the worst behavior can be excused, but I do hope that Brewers GM David Stearns is not threatening to rough up Tigers GM Al Avila or anything. Can a trade made under duress caused by threats of physical force be vetoed by the commissioner? An interesting analysis to be sure, even if it’s only speculative for now.

As for Wilson, I suppose the Brewers would have to be aggressive. He’s probably the most sought-after pitcher on the market at the moment. The Detroit Free Press reported earlier this week that 10-12 clubs were in on the left-handed reliever. He has a 2.75 ERA in 38 appearances and is striking out 12.5 batters per nine innings. He’s textbook trade deadline fodder, and the Tigers will likely get a nice return for him.

But please, Stearnsy, don’t hurt ’em.

The Indians have expressed an interest in Asdrubal Cabrera

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Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports that the Indians have expressed interest in Asdrubal Cabrera.

Cabrera, who began his career in Cleveland, would be a utility guy. Which is not exactly the Indians’ greatest need — they need a starting pitcher above all else — but improvement is improvement. Not much improvement in Cabrera’s case as he’s hitting .250/.333/.398 with nine homers in 70 games this season, but that’s useful if he’s cool with a strictly utility role. Which he’d have to be given that the Indians are solid at second, third and short.

Cabrera would come pretty cheaply of course. Partially because he’s not major piece, partially because he sort of hilariously demanded a trade last month. In large part because he wants to play shortstop which, now that I think about it, may complicate this whole “Cabrera for a utility role” idea the Indians seem to have.