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.

Report: Braves extend Kurt Suzuki

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Kurt Suzuki will wear a Braves’ uniform through the 2018 season after signing a one-year, $3.5 million extension with the club on Saturday, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal adds that the two had been in talks for weeks and Suzuki made it clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. The team has yet to announce the extension.

Suzuki, 33, initially signed a one-year contract with the Braves back in January. The veteran backstop stepped into a backup role behind starting catcher Tyler Flowers, but still found a way to impress at the plate with a .271/.343/.525 batting line, career-best 18 home runs and an .868 OPS through 287 PA. According to FanGraphs, Suzuki’s 2.2 fWAR makes 2017 his most valuable season since his run with the 2009 Athletics.

It’s a prudent move for the Braves, who would have lost one of their most dynamic second-half hitters to the free agent market this offseason. Entering Saturday, Suzuki is second only to Freddie Freeman with 11 homers and 1.4 fWAR since the All-Star break. His stunning comeback also confirmed the team’s decision to look outside the organization for a backup catcher, rather than turning to fellow veteran Anthony Recker behind the plate.

“On a personal level, this season exceeded my expectations,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things I can’t explain. I put a lot of work in and really didn’t have a job until late January. I got an opportunity here and took advantage of it. It was definitely a good fit.”

Mikie Mahtook is likely done for the season

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Tigers’ outfielder Mikie Mahtook is unlikely to play again this season, club manager Brad Ausmus announced Saturday. Mahtook was diagnosed with a Grade 2 left groin strain following Friday’s series opener against the Twins, when he appeared to injure himself after chasing down Byron Buxton‘s two-RBI double in the fourth.

This is the second time Mahtook has sustained a groin injury over the past month. The 27-year-old exited Friday’s game with a .276/.330/.457 batting line, 12 home runs and a .787 OPS through 379 plate appearances with the team.

With the Tigers out of contention, there’s no reason to trot out Mahtook for the remaining eight games of the regular season. The club has yet to specify a timetable for his return, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be in fine shape to compete for a starting role next spring.