UPDATE: The Red Sox are over the luxury tax threshold


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.

Mets expected to tender a contract to Jenrry Mejia

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 12:  Jenrry Mejia #58 of the New York Mets reacts as he walks off the field after getting the final out of the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field on July 12, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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Jenrry Mejia appeared in just seven games this past season due to a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets are expected to tender him a contract for 2016.

While the Mets were vocal about their disappointment in Mejia’s actions, it makes sense to keep him around as an option. Had he played a full season in 2015, he would have earned $2.595 million. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and figures to receive a contract similar to his 2015 figure, but he’ll only be paid for the games he plays. He still has 100 games to serve on his second PED suspension, which means that he’ll only be paid for 62 games in 2016. This likely puts his salary closer to $1 million, which is a small price to pay for someone who could prove useful during the second half and beyond. He also won’t count toward the team’s 40-man roster until he’s active.

Mejia, who turned 26 in October, owns a 3.68 ERA in the majors and saved 28 games for the Mets in 2014. He’s currently pitching as a starter in the Dominican Winter League.

Braves and Jim Johnson reunite on a one-year contract

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 17: Jim Johnson #53 of the Atlanta Braves throws a ninth inning pitch against the Chicago Cubs at Turner Field on July 17, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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UPDATE: The deal is official. Bowman adds that Johnson will make $2.5 million in 2016.

6:11 p.m. ET: Jim Johnson enjoyed some success out of the Braves’ bullpen in 2015 until a midseason trade to the Dodgers and Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports that he has returned to Atlanta on a one-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved.

After an awful 2014 between the Athletics and Tigers, Johnson signed a one-year deal with the Braves last winter and bounced back to the tune of a 2.25 ERA and 33/14 K/BB ratio over 48 innings. He also saved nine games. However, things went south for him after a trade to the Dodgers in late July, as he put up an ugly 10.13 ERA in 23 appearances. He was left off the team’s roster for the NLDS against the Mets.

It’s unclear what role the Braves have in mind for Johnson, as Arodys Vizcaino finished the season as the closer, but they have made upgrading their bullpen a priority this winter.

Report: Barry Bonds under consideration to be the Marlins hitting coach

Barry Bonds

This shouldn’t cause any controversy, lead to a lot of people saying dumb things or provide fodder for jokes at all. Nope, none whatsoever:

In what promises to be a bombshell move, if executed, all-time great slugger Barry Bonds is under consideration to become Marlins hitting coach.

Team higherups have quietly been discussing this possibility for weeks.

That’s Jon Heyman, who reminds us that Bonds has worked with the Giants in the spring in recent years. And who, no matter what else you can say about him, was one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. Also worth remembering that despite his controversial past, that greatness came not just from physical gifts, naturally or artificially bestowed. It came from his approach, preparation and strategy at the plate. No one can teach a hitter to hit like Barry Bonds, but you’d think that hitters could be taught to try to approach an at bat the way Barry Bonds would. And who better to do it than Barry Bonds?

That is, if Bonds is willing to drop his seemingly ideal retired life in San Francisco, move to Miami and work for Jeff Loria for nine months a year. Which, eh, who knows? But the possibility of it is pretty fascinating to think about.

Yadier Molina’s new backup: Cardinals sign Brayan Pena to two-year deal

Brayan Pena Reds

Veteran catcher Brayan Pena has agreed to a two-year, $5 million contract with the Cardinals, who’re investing much more than usual in their backup for Yadier Molina.

After bouncing around for a decade without getting even 250 plate appearances in a season Pena signed with the Reds and topped 350 plate appearances in both 2014 and 2015. His production didn’t improve any, as Pena hit .263 with five homers and a .652 OPS in 223 games as a regular.

Pena’s best skill is rarely striking out, which enables him to hit for a decent batting average, but he has very little power and swings at everything. He struggled to control the running game this season at age 33, but has a decent throw-out rate for his career.

Making a multi-year commitment to Pena suggests the Cardinals are no longer counting on Molina being the same type of workhorse behind the plate, which certainly makes sense given his age and injury history. Pena will replace Tony Cruz, who’s been Molina’s understudy since 2011 while hitting just .220 with five homers and a .572 OPS in 259 games.