Orioles right-hander Alex Cobb may miss yet another Opening Day assignment due to injury, this time a groin strain that flared up during his final Grapefruit League start against that Twins on Saturday.
Cobb breezed through the first inning, setting down the first three batters on three quick outs, but was promptly pulled before he threw a single pitch in the second. Following the game, he was diagnosed with a mild right groin strain, nothing so severe that it would compromise the right-hander’s 2019 campaign, but just serious enough that it may keep him off the mound during the team’s season opener against the Yankees on March 28.
The 31-year-old is coming off of a tough year in Baltimore, one in which he pitched to a disheartening 5-15 record in 28 starts with a 4.90 ERA, 2.5 BB/9, 6.0 SO/9, and 1.4 fWAR through 152 1/3 innings. This would have marked the first Opening Day assignment of his seven-year career in the majors. In the event that he’s unable to take it, it looks like the Orioles are prepping fellow righty Andrew Cashner in his place.
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.