Tigers Will Not Pay Luxury Tax in 2018

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The Tigers may have not had the big sell-off that people were predicting after Al Avila’s comments after the regular season, only trading away Cameron Maybin and his $9 million salary. However, don’t expect the Tigers to stand pat in the 2017-18 offseason or even the 2017 Trade Deadline if the record suggests the Tigers are not going to be able to make a run. 

GM Al Avila commented, “We certainly are not going to go over the luxury tax a third year, because the penalties are just too severe — not to mention paying the actual luxury tax in actual cash dollars. It will just keep on going up. We’re going to obviously avoid that.”

Luckily, the Tigers won’t have to make blockbuster trades to get below the luxury tax threshold for 2018. The 2018 luxury tax threshold is $197 million. If the Tigers do go over for a third year, the penalties will be a 50% tax for the amount that they would go over.

The Tigers are currently sitting at just over $201 million for the 2017 payroll, about $6 million over the the $195 million threshold for 2017.

Here are some of the ways the Tigers can get underneath the threshold:

Buyout Anibal Sanchez’s club option for 2018: Anibal Sanchez is contributing $16.8 million to the Tigers’ payroll this year and has a club option for the exact same amount for 2018. The Tigers will almost surely buyout the option for $5 million, saving $11.8 million in the process.

Do not re-sign the free agents: The Tigers have a few notable free agents who are making a good amount of money. If these guys don’t get traded sometime between now and the 2017 Trade Deadline, the Tigers probably won’t re-sign them next offseason. For starters, J.D. Martinez is getting paid $11.75 million which the Tigers will save for 2018. The Tigers will most likely not be able to re-sign him in the offseason. Mike Pelfrey is a free agent as well and that will save the Tigers $8 million compared to this year. Francisco Rodriguez’s $6 million, Mark Lowe’s $5.5 million, and Alex Avila’s $2 million will save the Tigers a lot of money. The Tigers’ 5 free agents will save them a total of $33.25 million. 

After letting these 6 players go, the Tigers will be around $156 million, well below the luxury tax threshold. The Tigers could save another $22.125 million from 2018-2021 if Justin Upton decides to opt-out. After this, it’s up to the Tigers in the direction they want to go in. They could additionally save another $10 million if they don’t pick up Ian Kinsler’s option, but that seems highly unlikely. If Upton opts-out as well and Kinsler somehow doesn’t get his option picked up, the Tigers would be standing at $124 milion.

The 2006-2016 Tigers might’ve gone out and made some big free agent splashes, but I’m not so sure the Al Avila regime would do that. They could decide to get younger and give prospects a chance and replace the free agents with guys like Christin Stewart, Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, Joe Jimenez, Drew VerHagen, and Grayson Grenier/John Hicks.

They could start trading guys like Kinsler (if they do pick up his option), Upton (if he doesn’t opt out), Verlander ($28 million), Cabrera ($30 million), or Victor Martinez ($18 million). Or they could decide that J.D. Martinez is too valuable for the success of the Tigers and attempt to re-sign him.

The Tigers definitely have options and it’ll be pretty easy to get under the luxury tax threshold for 2018. Even if the Tigers bring back J.D., the Tigers would be sitting aorund $167.75 million depending on the contract of J.D., but still well under the $197 million line.

This just might be the last hurrah for this group of Tigers veterans in 2017. Let’s hope they make it count.

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