A note of clarification on John Lackey's salary and the luxury tax threshold

November 13, 2013 - 7:45 am

In the aftermath of this look at the Red Sox' current payroll commitments for 2014, there has been widespread curiosity on one front: Why is John Lackey listed as a $16.5 million salary for luxury tax purposes? The right-hander is entering the final season of his five-year, $82.5 million contract. But because he missed all of 2012 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, a vesting team option at the major league minimum ($500,000 plus a cost of living adjustment from 2014 to 2015) for 2014 was triggered. So, with that option in place, does it alter the way that Lackey's 2014 average annual value is calculated for luxury tax purposes? Simple answer: No. Even if the Sox exercised Lackey's 2015 option today, it wouldn't impact how his AAV is determined in any year of the contract prior to the option. He'd still represent a $16.5 million player for the purposes of 2014 payroll, and he'd still represent approximately a $500,000 player for the purposes of 2015 payroll. The implications are twofold: First, Lackey represents, at least as of now, the most expensive player on the Sox' roster in the coming year, and secondly, he represents a potentially game-changing member of the roster for 2015 if he remains healthy and effective while pitching at the major league minimum. If, for instance, the Sox wanted to sign Jon Lester to a long-term deal that would take effect starting in 2015 (something that the team is expected to explore this spring), the payroll flexibility afforded by Lackey could play a significant role in giving the Sox the flexibility to do so while staying well within the luxury tax threshold.