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.

Jose Bautista: “I haven’t had to” pay for a meal in Toronto since famous bat flip

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista flips his bat after hitting a three-run home run against the Texas Rangers during the seventh inning in Game 5 of baseball's American League Division Series, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015 in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP
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Arguably the most memorable moment of the 2015 season came in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the ALDS between the Blue Jays and Rangers. The game was tied 3-3, but the Jays were threatening with runners on the corners and two outs. Jose Bautista launched a 1-1 Sam Dyson fastball for a no-doubt tie-breaking three-run home run that would send the Jays into the ALCS to face the eventual world champion Royals.

Bautista didn’t immediately run to first base after hitting the home run. He admired it, looked at Dyson, and then flipped his bat triumphantly. As far as bat flips go, it was a 10 out of 10. Yasiel Puig was proud.

The six-time All-Star admitted “I haven’t had to” pay for a meal in Toronto since that moment in the ALDS, as Jonah Birenbaum notes for The Score. Bautista also served as the assistant coach for musician Drake at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. As Drew noted earlier, Bautista had a pretty nice view at the NBA Slam Dunk Contest as well.

The Jays are hopeful to sign Bautista, 35, to a multi-year extension. In six seasons since breaking out with the club in 2010, he has hit .268/.390/.555 with 227 home runs and 582 RBI in 3,604 plate appearances. No one has hit more home runs since the start of the 2010 season, as Miguel Cabrera is the closest at 199. And only Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, Robinson Cano, and Albert Pujols have driven in more runs in that span of time. It’s easy to see why, despite his age, the Jays want to keep Bautista around a little while longer.

Dallas Keuchel, Astros did talk long-term contract

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Dallas Keuchel‘s agent Darek Braunecker told MLB Network Radio in early January that he had not engaged in any long-term contract negotiations with the Astros’ front office. Two weeks later, the sides reached a one-year, $7.25 million agreement, avoiding a salary arbitration hearing. So was a bigger financial commitment ever discussed?

Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has the answer, writing in his offseason review that the “Astros and Keuchel have had substantial talks about extensions [this winter] … but to no avail.”

Keuchel carries all the leverage in the world after winning the 2015 American League Cy Young Award with a 2.48 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, and 216/51 K/BB ratio in 232 innings. He also made three appearances in the postseason to a 2.57 ERA in 14 frames.

Keuchel’s $7.25 million salary for 2016 will be a record for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Locking up some of his free agent years (2019, 2020, 2021, etc.) would likely take a commitment of $120 million or more.

Houston has the 28-year-old left-hander under contractual control through 2018, and it sounds like the plan is to go season-to-season with his salaries.

He’ll remain a huge value to a good-looking Astros team.

Yadier Molina gets cast removed from surgically-repaired thumb

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Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.

It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …

Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.

Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.

Jose Fernandez wants $30 million a year, Marlins don’t plan on paying

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You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.

There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”

If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.

A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.

Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.

If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.