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Tax increases could factor in MLB negotiations

Tax increases could factor in MLB negotiations

Team executives and agents wandered into the Agave Sunset lounge at the resort where the general managers' meetings were held in Indian Wells, Calif. Four of the six flat-screen televisions were showing election coverage, with the other two turned to sports.

President Barack Obama's victory over Mitt Romney was of as much interest to baseball's money men as the game scores, given the millions of dollars routinely guaranteed in player contracts these days.

As free agents negotiate deals this offseason, tax policy is an area that comes up along with the usual issues. Some players are wrangling for as much money as they can get before the end of the year to avoid a take hike in 2013.

``Front-loading would make sense if at all possible as tax rates will definitely go up on January 1st on all high-income taxpayers,'' agent Greg Genske said in an email. ``The only question is HOW MUCH will the rates increase????''

This much is known for now: Starting Jan. 1, there is an additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax on wages above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly under the federal Affordable Care Act, a rise to 2.35 percent.

In addition, the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of the year, which could raise the highest marginal federal tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent - although a deal between Obama and Congress could change that.

Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane figures agents will be on top of the changes - but the results of negotiations about the so-called fiscal cliff are unpredictable.

``I think if you're hopping around the potential of tax reform, you're probably chasing your tail,'' Beane said. ``If they can predict when something's going to happen, then they're much further ahead than the lawmakers.''

With baseball contracts worth as much as $275 million (Alex Rodriguez) and the major league minimum $480,000, tax policy affects every player who spends most of the season in the big leagues.

All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, who has a $10 million salary next year, was traded from the Miami Marlins to the Toronto Blue Jays. While Florida has no state income tax, Reyes remains a New York resident from his days with the Mets and had high taxes to begin with. Ontario's provincial tax rises to 11.16 percent - on top of a Canadian federal level as high as 29 percent.

Among states with big league teams, income tax rates go as high as 10.3 percent in California and 8.82 percent in New York. At the other end, Florida, Texas and Washington have no state income tax. The top rate in the District of Columbia is 8.95 percent.

``I like ours; we're a no-tax state,'' Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zdurienck said. ``When we sit down with players, that's a huge benefit. I think any player out there that has an opportunity to play in a no-tax state gets benefits, enormous benefits. We hope that weighs in our favor.''

According to an analysis done by a tax lawyer on the staff of agent Scott Boras, a player with a $10 million salary and average deductions who plays in Florida and is a resident of that state will see his taxes rise from $3.45 million this year to $4.09 million next year under current law. If traded to the Blue Jays, that player's 2013 tax would rise to $4.27 million. And if dealt to a California team, the tax would go up to $4.4 million.

By moving money from salary into signing bonuses, players can sometimes lower their state tax bills. Shifting money into December this year could reduce federal taxes.

``Tax measures are going to be discussed, but change most likely carries compromise on both sides,'' Boras said. ``One thing is clear based on the nation's ballot totals: Many Americans are split on this subject.''

In the end, most free agents choose teams based on where they want to play, not on lowering the tax cut on their income.

``It's a factor, maybe even a small factor,'' agent Craig Landis said. ``If there's 50 variables, you can now make it a 51st. It's not usually going to be the drive, but it's something to consider.''

And for teams, only the big spenders need worry.

Beane's Athletics, for instance, had the lowest payroll in the majors last season.

``It's probably not a situation I'll have to face in Oakland too much,'' he said.

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John Carlson once again an All-Star snub

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USA TODAY Sports

John Carlson once again an All-Star snub

The Capitals' Stanley Cup run may be even more remarkable than we thought considering there were zero all-stars on Washington's roster apparently.

As part of Wednesday's NHL Awards, the First and Second-Team All-Star rosters were released and not a single Capital made either team.

Here is a look at both teams:

In the interest of full disclosure, the All-Star Teams are voted on by members of the Pro Hockey Writers Association of which I am a member. I did not, however, have a vote for the All-Star rosters.

The first thought most Caps fans will have when looking at these teams is what about Alex Ovechkin?

I'm actually OK with Taylor Hall and Claude Giroux getting the nods at left wing.

Hall won the Hart Trophy for what he was able to accomplish in New Jersey in leading a team that looked like a trash heap before the season to a playoff berth. Compare the Devils' roster to the Caps' and there's no question Hall had a lot less to work with than Ovechkin and tallied 93 points as compared to Ovechkin's 87. Giroux finished second in the NHL with 102 points, one of only three players this season to finish in the triple digits. He very narrowly beat out Ovechkin for Second Team honors.

It was a coin flip and Ovechkin lost. That's not what Caps fans should be crying foul over. The fact that John Carlson was not among the four defensive all-stars is a far more egregious omission for which there is no excuse.

After inexplicably being excluded from the NHL All-Star Game in January, Carlson was snubbed once again as he came in fifth in the voting.

Just what does Carlson have to do to get some recognition?

No defenseman in the entire NHL had more points than Carlson's 68 this season. That's not just because of increased minutes as Carlson finished 13th among defensemen in ice time per game.

But being a good defenseman is not about the offensive stats.

That's right. Now go ahead and show me which of the four who finished ahead of Carlson was partnered with a rookie for most of the season. I'll wait.

The answer is none of them.

It's very easy now to look at the Capitals as a team that had all the pieces in place and managed to put it all together at the right time to go on a Cup run, but that's not what happened this season. Carlson was very heavily relied upon by the Capitals during the regular season when the blue line was an obvious weakness, especially after an injury forced Matt Niskanen out of the lineup for 14 games. Carlson was averaging nearly 30 minutes per game in Niskanen's absence. Carlson also spent the majority of the season with his primary partner being a rookie in Christian Djoos.

Charlie McAvoy was a rookie too. Does that mean Zdeno Chara should have been named an all-star?

A player like McAvoy is very much the exception, not the rule. Djoos has a bright future ahead of him, but his career is not yet at the same level as a player like McAvoy.

With all due respect to the voters, it seems like not enough attention was paid to what the Capitals asked of Carlson this season. His strong play on both ends of the ice made up for a weak defense that was only bolstered by a late trade for Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks just prior to the trade deadline.

If you looked at Carlson's stats and saw just an offensive specialist who was not strong enough in his own end to warrant an all-star spot, then you were not paying close enough attention to the role he played in Washington this season.

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Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

WASHINGTON -- The rain was heavy and relentless. As the puddles grew deeper on the tarp at Nationals Park, the Baltimore Orioles were left to wonder if their bid for a rare road victory would be thwarted by, of all things, the weather.

During a season in which very little has worked in their favor, the Orioles withstood a long rain delay to beat the Washington Nationals 3-0 Wednesday night.

Baltimore led 2-0 after four innings when play was stopped. After a wait of 2 hours, 43 minutes, the game resumed with a few hundred fans from the announced crowd of 32,153 sprinkled around the lower seating bowl.

Mark Trumbo homered for Baltimore, and Andrew Cashner and four relievers combined on a five-hitter in a game that ended long after midnight.

"It was nice," Trumbo said. "I'm glad that we actually kept the game going. Had we not been able to, it might have been a wash. But it ended up being pretty big for us."

Baltimore ended a six-game losing streak to Washington that began last May, won for only the fourth time in 20 games and improved the majors' worst road record to 10-28.

This one was worth the wait.

"It's never easy, especially when you get over the hour mark, two-hour mark," Trumbo said. "Then you have to restart. It's almost two games in one, so, great job by our guys tonight."

The Nationals managed only two hits following the delay, both in the ninth inning.

"It happens. You can't do anything about the rain," manager Dave Martinez said. "You've got to come out and get yourself ready to play. I'm not going to make any excuses."

The rain delay cut short a solid pitching performance by Cashner, who allowed three hits and no walks over four innings in his return from an 11-day stay on the disabled list with back spasms.

Miguel Castro (2-2) followed with two hitless innings, Darren O'Day pitched a perfect seventh and Zach Britton got four outs.

Brad Brach allowed the Nationals to load the bases with two outs in the ninth before striking out Mark Reynolds .

Trumbo hit a two-run homer in the second inning off Gio Gonzalez (6-4), and for a while it appeared the drive would be washed out by the rain.

"One pitch. That was the whole game," Gonzalez lamented. "That was it."

Indeed, it all ended well for the Orioles, who added a run in the sixth when Adam Jones doubled off Shawn Kelley and scored on a sacrifice fly by Danny Valencia .

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