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Taking on big contracts could make a throwaway season more worthwhile for the Jays

I think, at this point, it’s fair to assume the Jays aren’t going for it at all in 2019. I mean, nobody really expected them to, but there was a small amount of talk that it could be worthwhile to take a stab at the second wild card given how weak the American League is right now. Still, if the Jays are deciding to sit out in 2019 and let their kids develop, they can still make the season worthwhile by eating money for other teams in order to buy prospects.

For those who aren’t familiar with how the luxury tax works because it’s irrelevant when you cheer for the Blue Jays, Major League Baseball imposes a soft salary cap that you’re allowed to go over. If you go over, you pay a certain percentage of your overage as a luxury tax that gets redistributed as a competitive balance to other teams.

Teams like the Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox consistently go over the threshold because they have, like, unlimited money and care a lot about winning. That said, in 2018 we saw the Yankees and Dodgers both stay under the luxury threshold in what was an attempt to reset their luxury tax. This is because the fee a team pays for going over the luxury tax raises each consecutive season that team ends up over the limit. The first year, they pay an additional 20 percent on all overages. The next year it goes up to 30 percent, and the third year it’s a whopping 50 percent.

Another thing going on with the Dodgers for those who don’t follow them is that they’re trying to sell another minority stake in the organization. What they’ve done is outline a plan for the next five years that details cutting expenditure by lowering payrolls and avoiding going over the luxury tax. Now, this could be posturing as the organization looks to rope in potential investors but, yeah, long story short, the Dodgers seem to be trying to tone back their spending a little bit.

That takes us back to the Buster Olney tweet from above. The Dodgers are clearly looking to shed some salary and they have a pretty deep prospect pool to help them do it. Names who immediately jump out as ones the Dodgers would look to move are Matt Kemp, Rich Hill, and Yasiel Puig. All three are set to become free agents at the end of the 2019 season and all three play in positions of strength for the Dodgers…

  • Kemp, who started his career in L.A., was acquired as a salary dump from the Braves last off-season. They took Kemp on in order to dump the contracts of Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, and Adrian Gonzalez. He had a decent bounce back season last year but has a big price tag of $21,750,000 for 2019.
  • Hill is a good pitcher but the Dodgers have a wild amount of pitching depth. There’s Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling, Alex Wood, and Julio Urias beyond Hill. Given cost, it makes the most sense to move Hill who will make $18,666,666 in 2019.
  • Puig has had an up-and-down career since breaking into the league in 2013. He started off hot, but was criticized for a lack of focus. He had two ugly seasons in 2015 and 2016, but bounced back and has become a very good, well-rounded player over the past two seasons. He’s in his final control year and is arbitration eligible this winter.

The front office has said, albeit in a sort of odd quote, that payroll would increase when the team is ready. Presumably that means the Jays will dive into the trade or free agent market when the young core is ready to compete (and the Yankees/Red Sox/Astros are ready to take a step backwards).

Still, if the Jays are going to chuck away a season, it would be very beneficial for them to flex some financial muscle and get something out of it. Guys like Rich Hill and Yasiel Puig could help the Dodgers free up budget, which is what they’re apparently trying to do this off-season, and then they could be flipped for prospects later on during the season.

The Dodgers aren’t the only team trying to shed money. This is happening all across baseball, as we saw with Thursday’s confusing trade between Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and Seattle that saw prospects, money, and expensive first basemen flying around. The Reds seem ready to try to compete and they have an albatross contract in Homer Bailey they want to dump. In acquiring a contract like Bailey’s, you’re essentially buying prospects, which makes sitting and watching a season with a cheap payroll more worthwhile.

    • Jroc

      That’s what I’m thinking. With the extra Tulo money they are at what $120M? After they spend $10-15M filling out the roster there cant be an appetite to spend more on a 75 win team can there?

  • Matty

    Because as Atkins quite eloquently points out above, the jays payroll deviates and is tied to public indecis. He is just quite rightly pointing out that he really doesn’t have a clue but words need to be said.

    So ya, words