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Beltre’s (meaningless) option could hinge on wrist

09.20.10 at 2:18 am ET
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Under other circumstances, the results of the exam on Adrian Beltre‘s sore left wrist could have had significant implications for the Red Sox.

That possibility would have had less to do with the impact that the third baseman has had on his club this year — and make no mistake, Beltre has been a force, leading his club in games played (144), batting average (.329), slugging (.571) and RBI (98) while ranking second in OBP (.374) and homers (28) — and more to do with his 2011 cost.

Beltre, after all, could see the value of his player option for the 2011 season increase from $5 million to $10 million with 640 plate appearances this year. He currently sits at 599 plate appearances, and so, if he misses anything more than a few of his club’s 13 remaining games, it would jeopardize the value of his 2011 option.

Of course, such a possibility appears to have nothing more than theoretical significance. First and foremost, manager Terry Francona declared that the third baseman received “a clean bill of health” after a series of tests at Mass General. So, Beltre should get enough plate appearances to double the value of his player option.

That said, in the process of accumulating all those at-bats — and performing as one of the top players in the American League — Beltre has virtually assured that he has no reason to exercise his player option. Coming off the worst season of his career in 2009, the third baseman received a one-year, $9 million deal. He is now going to be heading back into free agency after the second-best season of his career; he is certain to receive multi-year offers in excess of $10 million a year.

Thus, the only real question becomes whether or not the increased value of the player option would have luxury tax implications for the Red Sox in either 2010 or 2011. Answer: No.

The Sox structured their deal with Beltre and agent Scott Boras – a one-year, $9 million guarantee that included a $1 million buyout that was triggered when the All-Star reached 575 plate appearances on Sept. 12 and a $5 million player option for 2011 — so that it would be calculated as a $7 million deal for luxury tax purposes. (The deal is viewed as a two-year, $14 million guarantee for CBT purposes.)

If (and, almost certainly, when) Beltre declines his player option, the difference between what the Sox actually have paid him and what they were charged for CBT purposes will be assessed against their 2011 luxury tax payroll. So, assuming that he declines his option, the Sox will have $3 million — the difference between the $7 million CBT assessment for this season and the additional $2 million in salary he received this year, along with the $1 million conditional buyout that was triggered — assessed on their 2011 payroll for luxury tax purposes.

Assuming that Beltre declines his player option — whether for $5 million or $10 million — that $3 million assessment for 2011 won’t change. Nor will it alter the $7 million CBT calculation for 2010.

If Beltre were to exercise a $10 million player option for 2011, however, then the Sox would be on the hook for a $13 million luxury tax calculation for his contract next year, as the final amount charged must equal the actual amount paid. So, if he exercises a $10 million player option, the Sox would have paid a total of $20 million (the $9 million 2010 salary, the $1 million buyout, and the $10 million player option) over the two years, resulting in the $13 million assessment.

But, that hypothetical scenario will be rendered moot if/when Beltre declines the player option. And so, the state of his wrist over the final two weeks of the season will have no actual implications for his deal with the Sox.

Read More: Adrian Beltre, cbt, Contract,
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