If his sleigh heads back to the North Pole without leaving a big free agent under the Boston or New York trees, what does that mean for the 2012 trade deadline?
Both teams have their eyes on starting pitchers. The Red Sox need a right fielder and a right-handed bat off the bench, while the Yankees could use a left-handed bullpen arm as well as bench strength.
The following slides show a number of prominent players who will undoubtedly be on both teams' wish lists for Christmas in July.
"Wish list" is the operative word here, because the conditions which have caused both teams to hold back from big-dollar deals in this offseason will still apply next summer. The new collective bargaining agreement calls for escalating penalties for teams that exceed the luxury tax threshold in successive years. That threshold for 2012 (and 2013) is the same as 2011: $178 million. It goes up to $189 million in 2014.
Teams that have gone over the limit in 2010 and 2011 will be assessed a 40-percent tax on every dollar spent beyond $178 million this year. (According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Yankees' average luxury tax penalty has been $25.75 million per year since their penalty rate went to 40 percent in 2005.)
The Red Sox went over that limit in the past two years, and looking at their current payroll, there's no way they stay under that number and still field a competitive team in 2012. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports obtained figures from another organization that show the Red Sox are currently up against the luxury-tax threshold of $178 million. (Nick Carfardo also wrote about this in the Boston Globe.)
It gets worse: the maximum tax increases to 50 percent starting in 2014. Both the Red Sox and the Yankees are trying to avoid such a hefty penalty, and the only way to do that is to get back under the threshold for one year. If that happens, the penalty goes back to zero, and the first year hit is reduced to 17.5 percent.
There are several good reads out there detailing how the the luxury tax will affect free agency and trading deadline decisions for both the Red Sox and the Yankees. Matt Kory’s piece for Over the Monster is a good starting point for the Red Sox situation; Chip Beck expanded on the subject for Firebrand of the American League.
Meanwhile, Joel Sherman presented the Yankees' dilemma in this article for the New York Post.
So, with those caveats in mind, here we go. (We're also assuming that none of these players are locked up by other teams between now and July 31.)