Red Sox sign Ryan Roberts

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In the wake of Will Middlebrooks’ calf injury the Red Sox have signed Ryan Roberts to help fill in at third base, according to Alex Speier of WEEI.com.

Roberts was released by the Cubs at the end of spring training and hasn’t topped a .700 OPS since 2011 with the Diamondbacks, hitting .247 with five homers in limited action for the Rays last season at age 32.

He does offer plenty of positional versatility defensively and figures to see most of his action against left-handed pitching, off whom he’s hit .266 with 21 homers and a .785 OPS in 601 career plate appearances.

(Roberts also significantly increases the Red Sox’s average tattoo count, which is always a huge factor in any pennant race.)

Cubs, Red Sox, Yankees exceeded competitive balance tax threshold in 2019

Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald
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Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Cubs, Red Sox, and Yankees exceeded the competitive balance tax (more colloquially known as the luxury tax) threshold for the 2019 season, set at $206 million. It will rise to $208 million for the 2020 season and $210 million in 2021.

Teams that exceed the CBT threshold pay a penalty on the overage, which is compounded depending on how consistently they have exceeded the threshold. The base penalty is 20 percent. If a team has exceeded it in a second consecutive year, the penalty rises to 30 percent. Three or more consecutive seasons yields a 50 percent tax on the overage. Furthermore, teams that exceed the CBT threshold by $20-40 million see an additional 12 percent tax. Above $40 million brings a 42.5 percent penalty which rises to 45 percent if the team exceeds the CBT by more than $40 million in a consecutive year.

The luxury tax has acted as a de facto salary cap. Front offices typically have gone out of their way not to exceed it, especially in recent years. The Cubs, Red Sox, and Yankees are each widely believed to be looking to stay below $208 million in 2020.

In pursuit of payroll efficiency, the Cubs are believed to be willing to listen to offers for catcher Willson Contreras, third baseman Kris Bryant, outfielders Kyle Scharber, Albert Almora, and Ian Happ, as well as pitcher José Quintana. The Red Sox are believed to be pursuing trades of outfielder Mookie Betts and/or J.D. Martinez. Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is also believed to be available.

As we have been discussing the ongoing labor tension in baseball lately, one wonders if the CBT threshold might also be changed within the next collective bargaining agreement. It has served ownership well, giving them something to point at as a reason not to invest as much into putting together a competitive and entertaining product for fans.