The San Francisco Giants view the Competitive Balance Tax threshold as a target, not a mandate. But with each move the busy front office has made this offseason, it’s become clear the target is more rigid than one might expect from a team intent on contending after the franchise’s worst season since 1994.
The signing of Austin Jackson puts the team right up against the $197-million point-of-no-return, and based on Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean’s comments on Tuesday, the long-term benefits of not going over outweigh any desire to go all-in now.
“You have to have viable or significant choices,” Sabean said, explaining the team’s hesitation to sign another big-money player. “At this time, we don’t know if we have that at hand.”
The Giants don’t want to add someone who will put them into the tax in the coming years. For example, if they signed Lorenzo Cain — who would presumably command a multiyear deal — it would lock them into being tax violators for several seasons, not just 2018.
The fans who wanted them to blow it up during the offseason might get their wish if this season is like last year.
What is the real cost of the CBT?
Clubs that go over the threshold, according to MLB.com, are subject to a tax on each dollar above the limit. And if teams do it repeatedly, the tax rate increases.
According to Grant Brisbee at SB Nation, the Giants would be offenders for the fourth-straight season if they broke the limit in 2018, which would come with a 50-percent tax. They can reset that figure if they stay under $197 million this season.
Additionally, if San Francisco decided to splurge and pay the tax, it would lose its second- and fifth-round picks and $1 million in international spending money. For a last-place team, those costs are prohibitive.
“There’s costs involved in the CBT that are beyond financial,” Evans said. “… The advantages of staying under it now, it produces benefits into the future years. We’re mindful of that.”
The Giants are happy with what they’ve put together so far and will jump at any opportunities that may present themselves, but they aren’t going to be adding any more expensive players.
They still want an everyday centerfielder, and Sabean indicated Jackson won’t be that guy.
Whether they fill that role from within or through a trade depends on if the team can find a high-value, low-experience major-league players. Those aren’t common.
Barring the perfect trade materializing, Steven Duggar will be given a serious chance to compete for a share of center field. And it’ll come down to Spring Training for how the rest of the outfield is constructed.
“The [Spring Training] performance can’t be overvalued and over-read, but we do want to see [Duggar] healthy and strong as well as how everyone looks in the spring,” Evans said.
The front office has flexibility to make some small moves before the season or at the trade deadline, Evans explained.
Bruce Bochy is going to have to make several decisions with the roster that underwent a “facelift,” as Sabean referred to it, but the manager loves what he’s seen.
“If you had told me after the season that we would’ve gotten this much done with these type of players,” he said, “I really couldn’t have been happier.”