Much has been made during baseball’s offseason about the luxury tax threshold, or competitive balance tax, or tax repeater fee, or whatever you want to call it. For our sake, we are going go with “cap” since that is a widely recognized term.
It seems most teams are wising up to the problem of repeatedly going over the cap and are very interested in getting under it this year, resetting themselves, and then blowing right past it next year when there are some truly elite players on the market (my apologies to JD Martinez).
The Giants are in this same boat. In some ways, they are in a doubly unique situation: they have the opportunity to not only reset their tax standing (with the draft and international benefits attached to it), but also cash in on having the second pick in every round of the draft.
Assuming (and this is a significant assumption I hope to explore in another post soon), that this is actually a good team, it’s not often “good” teams get the second overall pick in their drafts. Again, assuming general goodness, the Giants one main weakness right now is a dearth of prospects in their farm system, a weakness they are uniquely able to address this year while, at the same time, remaining competitive.
That is the case for staying under the cap, which they currently are under by about 4.5 million dollars. $4.5 million goes quick in baseball. That could get the Giants maybe another OF and an arm. Maybe.
Which raises the philosophical question: at what point do you say “screw it,” and just go for it.
Andrew Baggarly has proposed this idea a couple of times. His articles are now subscription only, but the gist of his points are thus:
- The Giants are already pot committed: this is a team that is designed to win now. Sacrificing a couple extra picks here and there is a small price to pay.
- Every team in MLB is benefiting from the sale of BamTech to Disney…each ownership group will get a cool $50 million, so who cares about a tax!
- In a year/climate where everyone is zagging, it makes sense to zig.
These are all very interesting arguments, not least of which is point three. In addition to that, there are more teams than ever who are “tanking” which makes for a top-heavy season in baseball. One could argue the Giants are really only competing against a couple of teams for a wild card spot, instead of, say, the entire National League.
On the other hand, as mentioned above, the Giants have the potential to be good right now and backfill their system and free up space to get even better next year (which also includes extending Madison Bumgarner).
Not only that, but the Giants are often criticized for not developing young guys or giving them a chance. (A counter point to this argument would be the 2017 season which saw a lot of guys get a chance and sputter out). Here’s an opportunity to ease some guys in.
While I am intrigued at the possibilities to add depth to the 2018 roster (Jarrod Dyson, a starting pitcher, etc), I am more excited about the prospect of integrating a Steven Duggar, utilizing an Austin Slater, the emergence of an Andrew Suarez, and the potential for someone we aren’t even thinking about now to make an impact.
The Giants have been really good in recent years at having several spots anchored down, creating room for a risk to be taken on a Joe Panik, a Matt Duffy, a Jonathan Sanchez, and a Brandon Belt, among others.
The temptation to throw caution to the wind will only grow over the next several weeks as some free agents finally get signed, and the market falls apart for some players.
I will continue to argue against this approach. I actually think the Giants could be good the way they are right now, and they could set themselves up well for the future.