Alden Gonzalez explains why no Mike Trout extension is forthcoming

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Many have assumed that the Angels will try to work out a long-term deal with Mike Trout this winter before the price tag becomes even more overwhelming, but there’s a very good reason that won’t be happening. And it has a lot to do with that hideous Vernon Wells deal still taking a toll. The Angels are just too close to the luxury-tax threshold to commit big bucks to Trout at the moment.

MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez lays it all out in his blog entry:

Well, let’s say the Angels sign him to a 10-year, $300 million deal (that’s just a number I’m throwing out, basically because it’s easy to divide — and perhaps because I’m thinking of Robinson Cano). Even if in that contract, Trout is making only $1 million in 2014, the figure for the CBT [Competitive Balance Tax] payroll would be the AAV [Average Annual Value] of that: $30 million.

It matters nothing what Trout makes next year if he signs a long-term deal; it’s his average salary that counts. And since the Angels already have Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Wells, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson combining for annual salaries of $100 million, with many more mid-range players also under contract, they can’t give Trout the kind of contract he deserves and stay under the luxury tax at $189 million.

(Yes, Wells still factors in to the tune of $18 million next year. Under the deal the Angels worked out with the Yankees this spring, the Halos got some relief from his 2013 salary, but they’re taking on nearly all of that responsibility for 2014, largely because the Yankees wanted to get under the luxury tax next year.)

The Red Sox used to run into this same problem, and the Yankees, too, have typically been shy about signing younger players to multiyear deals. It’s the hidden cost of operating in the vicinity of the luxury tax; whereas small-market teams can give their young players long-term deals and save a lot of money in the long run, it costs the large-market teams extra to do so.

In this case, Trout is so incredibly valuable that one could argue the Angels should ignore the consequences and try to get something done anyway. It’ll cost them extra now, but it might yet save them some money down the line. After all, that annual salary he’ll command in a long-term deal figures to be significantly smaller now than it will be once he hits arbitration.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.