UPDATE: The Red Sox are over the luxury tax threshold

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UPDATE: Buster Olney of ESPN.com hears that despite today’s news about exceeding the luxury tax threshold, the Red Sox are still working under the same parameters they always have. In other words, if the team has a chance to acquire a player that can help them get to the playoffs, they will do it. Olney concludes by saying it would make “no sense” to refuse to make a move due to a “relatively small” luxury tax given their current investment in the team.

After giving it some thought, I have to agree with Buster. In fact, with the signings of John Lackey, Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro, among others, the Red Sox actually increased their payroll roughly 38 percent from last season — from $121,745,999 million in 2009 to $168,109,833, according to Cot’s Contracts. And this is during a time when player salaries are actually going down. They have invested to win now.

Are the Red Sox going to get Dan Haren, Roy Oswalt or Jayson Werth? No. But that was extremely unlikely to happen anyway. As for the possibility of acquiring David DeJesus, the biggest hurdle may be what the Royals want in return, not his modest salary. Same goes with Scott Downs. As for Kerry Wood, he needs to prove he is healthy first. 

Provided that Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Victor Martinez eventually come back healthy, they should only need minor cosmetic changes to their roster, anyway. It’s just a matter of whether they can hang in the race until all or most of them return. Not many teams would act differently. I’m sure this issue will incite tons of conversation leading up to the trade deadline, but in the end I think it’s a bunch of sound and fury signifying bupkis. 

1:53 PM: This morning, Nick Carfardo of the Boston Globe backed up a recent report by Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse that suggested the Red Sox were unlikely to add any significant payroll before the trade deadline due to concern of going over MLB’s luxury tax threshold. Now it might not matter.

Just a short while ago, Carfardo reported that the Red Sox “have found out in the last few hours” that they have indeed gone
over the luxury tax threshold for 2010
, something that will have an impact on the team’s
payroll for 2011.

According to Cafardo, the Red Sox will be taxed at a 22.5 percent rate for every dollar spent above $170 million in payroll. The rate increases to a 30 percent tax for a payroll of $178
million next season. No surprise, the Yankees are the only other team that is over the threshold.

The Red Sox have made a concerted effort to avoid the luxury tax threshold, even not announcing Josh Beckett’s contract extension until after Opening Day so that it wouldn’t count against this season’s total. Evidently something happened to push them over the top, though it’s not exactly clear what that is. Hopefully we’ll hear more on that soon.

Recent reports have indicated that the Red Sox were willing to wait out their injured superstars as opposed to going out and adding any significant payroll. Today’s news probably won’t do anything to change that.

Drew Smyly brings youth and experience to Mariners rotation

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PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Trades don’t surprise Drew Smyly anymore.

At age 27, the Seattle Mariners left-hander has been dealt twice. The first swap sent him from the team that drafted and developed Smyly, the Detroit Tigers, to the Tampa Bay Rays in midseason 2014. That trade landed star pitcher David Price in Detroit.

“I was surprised by that one,” Smyly said.

The most recent trade involving him came in January, when the Rays shipped Smyly to Seattle for three prospects in one of many moves by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto. Smyly immediately joined the Mariners’ projected starting rotation, and is having fun getting to know his new teammates at spring training by way of manager Scott Servais’ clubhouse icebreakers.

Servais thinks Smyly is a solid fit as a still young yet experienced pitcher.

“One, being where he’s at in his career age-wise and service time, he’s kind of at the point where, put him in the right environment … very good defensive outfield, he’s a fly ball guy, maybe he does step up and take the next step,” Servais said. “Getting out of the American League East certainly should help him, but there’s no guarantees. Our division’s pretty tough.”

Servais suggested that another Arkansas native, ex-big leaguer Cliff Lee, might have helped sell Seattle on Smyly. Lee is a former Mariner and the two share an agent.

Smyly went 7-12 in a career-high 30 starts last season in Tampa, but won five games from July 30 to the end of the season after starting out 2-11. From May 21 to July 18, he lost seven straight starts.

“Pitching’s tough, you know,” Smyly said. “To manipulate the ball, to make it do different things, to put it in the strike zone with hitters that know what they’re doing. … I just had a rough stretch but I show up at the field every day, play catch and work on my craft and you know, that’s going to turn around one day.”

The 32 home runs Smyly surrendered in 2016 figure to be reduced in Seattle’s pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

“It can only help,” he said. “But it’s still going to be up to me to execute pitches and pitch well.”

Smyly is set to join the U.S. World Baseball Classic team shortly. Before that, he’ll make his first spring training start in the middle of next week.

“It’s an honor to be able to put your country on your chest and play with some of the guys on that team,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it big time.”

NOTES: Servais plans to roll out what figures to be Seattle’s opening day lineup in the spring training opener Saturday against San Diego. It’s OF Jarrod Dyson, SS Jean Segura, 2B Robinson Cano, DH Nelson Cruz, 3B Kyle Seager, OF Mitch Haniger, 1B Dan Vogelbach, C Mike Zunino and OF Leonys Martin. … Servais said Cano and Cruz will play a little more than is typical for early spring games, as the two will depart for the World Baseball Classic in early March. … LHP Ariel Miranda will start Saturday, then RHP Chris Heston Sunday, RHP Yovani Gallardo on Monday and ace Felix Hernandez on Tuesday.

Mitt Romney’s sons are trying to buy a stake in the Yankees

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 30:  Tagg Romney son of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives an interview during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC which will conclude today.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:

The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.

The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.

I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.

In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.