While the Nationals have a history of putting some finishing touches on their roster in August (e.g. Marc Rzepczynski, Matt Thornton), a significant/expensive addition isn’t likely to be in the cards, reports Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. Per Janes, the Nats have crossed over the luxury tax threshold for the first time in franchise history.
The Nationals opened the season with a payroll close to $170MM, though the luxury tax is calculated in terms of the average annual value of those contracts, so backloaded contracts like Stephen Strasburg ($15MM in 2017 but $25MM average annual value) count more toward the luxury tax. Additionally, the Nats took on the likes of Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, Howie Kendrick and Brandon Kintzler in July.
As Janes notes, the Nats will pay a 20 percent tax on their overage as a first-time offender. The exact figure of the Nats’ luxury tax payroll remains to be seen, but their overage will fall into the $0-20MM bracket, so it’s hardly dire from a purely financial standpoint. There are other factors worth noting as well, though.
Firstly, if the Nationals exceed the luxury tax for a second time in 2018 by a similar margin they’ll be taxed at a 30 percent rate instead of a 20 percent rate. Secondly, if the Nationals elect to pursue a free agent that has rejected a qualifying offer this offseason, they’ll now face a steeper penalty for signing him. The new collective bargaining agreement stipulated that luxury tax payers will forfeit their second- and fifth-highest selections in the following year’s draft and will also lost $1MM from their league-allotted international bonus pool.
The Nats are in the metaphorical “penalty box” when it comes to the international market anyhow, so the loss of pool money isn’t a significant hindrance, as they can’t sign any individual player for more than $300K anyhow. But, exceeding the luxury tax could make it a bit more costly in terms of draft compensation if the team wishes to pursue Greg Holland or Wade Davis in free agency — both of whom look like potential QO candidates.
The Nats do have the contracts of Kendrick, Kintzler, Jayson Werth, Joe Blanton, Oliver Perez, Stephen Drew, Chris Heisey, Adam Lind and Jose Lobaton coming off the books following the 2017 season. Werth alone will account for $18MM of luxury tax relief, and that group as a whole will bring more than $35MM of relief. With Anthony Rendon, Tanner Roark and Michael Taylor representing the only three players in line for arbitration raises, the Nats should be able to dip back under the threshold even with some offseason additions on the free-agent market this winter.