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Volume 26 No. 208
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Phillies Not Going To Let Luxury Tax Threshold Limit Potential Moves

The Phillies have signed several top free agents in the past few years, including Bryce Harper
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The Phillies have signed several top free agents in the past few years, including Bryce Harper
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The Phillies have signed several top free agents in the past few years, including Bryce Harper
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Phillies VP & GM Matt Klentak said that Managing Partner John Middleton "hasn't explicitly directed him to keep the payroll below the luxury tax," according to Scott Lauber of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. Klentak said that if there is a "move that is simultaneously sensible and helpful" to ending the team's eight-year playoff drought, he is "authorized to pursue it to the point of seeking ownership's approval." Lauber notes the Phillies payroll currently stands at nearly $203M, a "franchise-record sum," and just below the competitive balance tax threshold of $208M. The question now is "how far the Phillies will go." Since the current luxury tax system was agreed upon in '97, the Phillies "have never crossed into tax territory." That may be why the "assumption is that Middleton finally shut off the spigot after green-lighting the signing" of many top free agents in the past few years, including Bryce Harper's 13-year, $330M deal last year. But Middleton in October indicated that he would be "willing to pay the tax if the Phillies have a chance of winning more than the National League's second wild card" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/14).

WILLINGNESS TO SPEND: Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman acknowledged that the team's "flurry of trades" this offseason will put them over the CBT in '20. Friedman: "We are well over. With no CBT gymnastics in sight that will get us under." In L.A., Bill Plunkett notes the Dodgers "dipped under the tax threshold the past two seasons, so the penalties for exceeding it this season are minor." But those penalties will "increase if they continue to operate above the threshold" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/14).

UNOFFICIAL SALARY CAP: In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer noted Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo is among the voices in a "growing chorus of players critical of the game's economic squeeze on salaries." Rizzo said, "The luxury tax wasn't meant to be a salary cap, and teams are treating it like that. Are you sacrificing winning a championship to be under the tax threshold? Who knows? We don't know that." He added, "You've seen it the last two years with us: We haven't gone out (and signed big free agents). But the few years before that, we've gone out and signed megadeals." More Rizzo: "Right now more than ever in baseball, players are being treated like commodities. We want to win because that's what we're bred to do -- be baseball players and win. On the other side of it, we want to make as much money as we can in the short amount of time that we can. ... How much this game is making, it's not (out of line) for us players to speak up" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/13).