Why the structure of the Eduardo Nunez deal is significant for the Red Sox

Boston Red Sox second baseman Eduardo Nunez prepares to hit during batting practice for Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Houston Astros, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Red Sox infielder Eduardo Nunez prepares before Game 1 of last year’s ALDS against the Astros. –AP Photo/Eric Gay

FORT MYERS, Fla. – On its surface, the one-year, $4 million deal with a $4 million player option and $2 million buyout for Eduardo Nunez looks straightforward enough. But the structure of the deal represents an act of creative accounting that was intended not just to bring back a player whom the Red Sox wanted but also to do so in a way that minimizes his impact on the team’s payroll as calculated for luxury tax purposes.

Here’s the skinny: Nunez is guaranteed $6 million (the $4 million for 2018 along with the $2 million buyout). Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, player option years are treated as guaranteed. So, for purposes of calculating the team’s payroll for luxury tax purposes, the Nunez deal is treated as a two-year, $8 million deal with an average annual value of $4 million.


If Nunez opts out of the contract after one year, the Red Sox would get hit with the difference between what they actually paid Nunez ($6 million) and the number that they were charged for luxury tax purposes ($8 million over two years). However, the difference between those figures — $2 million — will be assessed as part of the calculation of the team’s 2019 payroll for luxury tax purposes, rather than its 2018 number.


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