2:22PM: It isn’t yet known if the Angels have ducked under the tax line, as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register notes that putting Stassi on the restricted list will save the team roughly $300K off the tax bill (due to how the luxury tax figure is calculated by average annual value, not by pure dollars). It might not be revealed until after the season whether or not the Angels have gotten under the tax threshold.
1:31PM: The Angels announced that catcher Max Stassi has been placed on the team’s restricted list (retroactive to September 2). Stassi hasn’t played at all this season due to both a hip strain that required a 60-day IL placement, and a personal situation involving his family.
That latter reason has led to the restricted list placement, since as per the club’s announcement, Stassi “informed the Angels that while he is in a position to resume activities to return to MLB, he has voluntarily chosen not to do so for the remainder of the 2023 season as a result of a serious family medical issue. Out of respect for Max and his family, the Angels will not have any further comment. The Angels wish Max and his family all the best.”
A veteran of 10 Major League seasons with the Astros and Angels, Stassi was dealt to Los Angeles at the 2019 trade deadline and hit quite well in part-time catching action for the Angels in 2020-21. That prompted the Halos to sign him to a three-year, $14.5MM contract extension that runs through the 2024 season with a club option (worth $7.5MM with a $500K buyout) for 2025. Unfortunately, Stassi then struggled through the 2022 campaign, and entered this past Spring Training competing for playing time with Logan O’Hoppe and Matt Thaiss.
Stassi’s hip injury removed him from the catching picture, and it appears as though he has been healthy for some time, but has instead been spending time with his family. We at MLBTR express our support for Stassi and his family during this difficult period.
When on a Major League restricted list, players can’t amass any big league service time or salary. As a result, the Angels won’t have to pay the $1.16MM still owed to Stassi over the course of the 2023 campaign, which has some bigger-picture implications for the team. The Athletic’s Sam Blum (X link) writes that with Stassi’s remaining salary off the books, the Angels will be able to duck under the $233MM luxury tax threshold.
This desire to avoid a tax payment was part of the reason for the Angels’ recent flurry of waiver wire placements, as Lucas Giolito, Hunter Renfroe, Dominic Leone, Matt Moore, and Reynaldo Lopez were all claimed away from the team prior to September 1. However, because Randal Grichuk wasn’t claimed, the Halos remained slightly above the $233MM tax line, but today’s move with Stassi has now apparently cleared the last financial hurdle.
The Angels hadn’t been tax payors since 2004, but were prepared to surpass the threshold this season in a push to contend in what might be Shohei Ohtani’s final season in Anaheim. The Halos were aggressive in adding to their roster last winter and during the season, including a busy trade deadline push that saw them land Giolito, Lopez, Leone, Grichuk, C.J. Cron in three separate trades. However, Los Angeles’ 8-19 record in August and Ohtani’s UCL injury led the club to effectively throw in the towel, and put six players on the waiver wire in the hopes of recouping some money to at least avoid any tax penalty.
In staying under the $233MM threshold, the Angels will avoid the (fairly minimal) tax payment itself, but will gain bigger rewards in terms of free agent compensation rules. The Halos will be able to sign qualifying offer-rejecting free agents without having to pay a bigger penalty in terms of draft picks, while L.A. will receive a compensatory pick prior to the third round of the draft for any free agents (i.e Ohtani) who might reject a QO and sign elsewhere. Had the Angels been tax payors, that compensatory pick would’ve fallen beyond the fourth round.