BOSTON — Help for the Red Sox is more likely to come from the disabled list than the trade market this month.
Trades can still happen in August, of course, and as long as a player is in the Red Sox organization by the end of the month, that player could be on a potential playoff roster. The trouble for the Sox is that waiver deals often involve big-money players, because those players are easier to pass through waivers.
Teams are happy to shed big salaries. But those players don't fit with the Sox’ clear (but technically unstated) plan to stay under the luxury tax threshold, which they remain at the moment.
The Red Sox will monitor the waiver wire and trade market, but one baseball source with knowledge of the team’s thinking said the return of injured players is probably where upgrades will come from down the stretch.
Joe Kelly is to be activated Saturday, and Carson Smith is to begin his own minor league rehab assignment Saturday as well.
Is the money the Red Sox save now and in the future by staying under the luxury tax threshold really a needed savings? Couldn’t Sox owner John Henry afford to go over?
“If it’s called a penalty, nobody really — anywhere I know — would want to incur a penalty in an open fashion. So you know right away there’s some deterrent to trying to do that,” Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. “But the second part of it, it’s not only the financial aspect of it, and there’s a great deal of finance that you end up sacrificing because you go over the luxury tax. Not only the particular year, but future years, because the tax has become so much higher and the penalty’s become so much higher. But you’re also dealing with draft choice, international losses, draft-choice losses going back in the draft, not as high a compensation if you lose a player.
“So there’s a lot of different things that you lose an organization that if you can avoid, you want to avoid. Now, if the right move became available and you thought that this was the difference maker for you, then I think you say OK, well let’s incur those. In our organization in the past has incurred, has gone over the competitive balance tax and I think we will go over it in other years too. But there’s also some advantages to resetting that CBT [competitive balance tax] so the penalties as you go forward are not quite as severe."
There's a lot of details here to sort through, and they're mostly a headache.
The tax for spending more than $195 million this season would be 50 percent for the Red Sox on anything up to $20 million more. In dollars and cents for very wealthy owners, that’s not extreme, although it would commit the Red Sox to the same level of penalties next season.
The steeper penalties come in for teams that really blow past the threshold. In excess of $20 million, you get hit hard; and then one more tier, in excess of $40 million, you get hit the hardest.
If the Sox went above by any amount this year, their offseason could indeed be trickier — but they wouldn't be destroyed with penalties. To sign a player who received a qualifying offer this winter, the Sox would have to give up their second and fifth highest draft selections, and also would see their international signing bonus money reduced by $1 million. If they stay under the threshold, the Sox would give up less to sign the same player.
Similarly, if the Sox lose a qualifying-offer player to another team, they don’t get as high a draft pick in return as they would if they were under the threshold. (Chris Young and Mitch Moreland probably aren't getting qualifying offers, though.)
In short: going over the threshold by $20 million or less doesn't bring the hammer down.