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The Giants have normal, non-collusion reasons to avoid the luxury tax, but ...

The payoff will need to be next year.

2017 Cactus League Media Availability

Let’s start with one of my biggest pet peeves. That would be when people yell about the Giants being cheap. This franchise has probably dumped $300 million down a toilet with a sign over it that reads “NOSTALGIA” since 2010. Other teams trade away their players when they’re two years away from free agency. The Giants pay too much to players who are two years removed from free agency. I know which team I’d rather follow.

But let’s move on to Scott Boras. He thinks the Giants should spend more money. And, whoa, look at that, some of that money could conceivably be funneled to Scott Boras? Well, I never. Still, there are good points here.

“I think people have the right to know the economics of the team,” said Boras, also noting the Giants have paid off the stadium mortgage and will construct the lucrative Mission Rock complex in parking lot A. “They’re certainly one of the best economically run teams in the game. They have the ability to pay.”

They certainly can pay. And we’ve talked about that Mission Rock complex before. It includes this quote from Larry Baer:

I would say this is less about getting the resources to compete with the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers and more about ...

“... you know, uh, kinda sorta having the resources to compete with the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers, no promises.” At least, that’s how I read it. They’re going to make a lot of money from that thing. Eventually.

Both things can be true. The Giants don’t have to be cheap. The Giants can still make a concerted effort to stay under the luxury-tax threshold this year so that they can spend next year without losing extra cash and international bonus money and draft picks. But there should be a payoff at the end.

Next year is that payoff, ostensibly. The Giants have spent all offseason employing their well-there-isn’t-really-a-way-to-spend-money-on-prospects-anymore-so-here’s-Andrew-McCutchen-and-Evan-Longoria-because-idk-maybe-it-will-work strategy, but guess what: There isn’t a great way to spend money on prospects and young players next year, either.

The only way rich teams can spend money is on free agents, and because there’s no way to spend a single extra penny on prospects, it’s extra important that the free agent money doesn’t conflict with the ability to acquire prospects. This is a huge reason for the hot stove molasses. The Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants realize that the only way they can stop spending this much money is if they get young players, and the only way they can get young players is if they stop spending this much money.

Again, I’m old enough where I read a sentence with “Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants” in relation to big-market bullying and laugh, because I remember when the Giants traded Matt Williams because they couldn’t afford two players making Aubrey Huff money. The current Giants owners aren’t cheap. I’m pretty sure they aren’t on the horn with 29 other teams detailing their plans to not spend money because the secret plan is to not spend money, either. Pretty sure they’re just worried about spending 1.5x on their free agents because of the money and because they’ll get a penalty that hurts their ability to stop spending so much on free agents.

Next year, there’s a bit of a bumper crop of free agents:

  • Bryce Harper
  • Manny Machado
  • Bryce Harper
  • Clayton Kershaw
  • Josh Donaldson
  • Charlie Blackmon
  • Andrew Miller
  • Holy crap, Bryce Harper
  • And Clayton Kershaw
  • Maybe Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw

And here we get to an important point: The Giants were willing to blow past the luxury tax threshold if they could get a marketable player like Giancarlo Stanton. Which leads me to believe they’ll do the same for a marketable player like Bryce Harper*. They will spend going forward. They have an investment in making the land around AT&T Park sexy, and they can’t do that with Kelby Tomlinson.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry, man. Mrrrroww, you did your best to keep things sexy, good work. But a player who will fit on a billboard is also a player who can help them sell condos at Mission Rock. The Giants will probably spend next year, even if they lose 98 games again this year.

The idea, then, is that this year’s creative and fascinating offseason is a way for them to have their cake and eat it, too. They wanted to compete this season. They wanted to blow up the payroll next year. They wanted to keep their draft picks in between. It was an obstacle course, and it took trading Matt Moore and Denard Span, but it looks like they can do it.

It’s up to them next offseason to prove that it was worth it. Because my guess is that J.D. Martinez would make this team better, but the Giants would rather save that kind of nine-figure expense for next season, when there are better players available and no penalties attached.

I can understand that. This isn’t an either-or kind of situation, where the Giants are either spending all of their available capital on the 2018 roster, or they aren’t even going to try. There are levels. They’re trying to thread a needle.

You can disagree with this strategy. You might think that if you’re not putting all of your auxiliary power into shields for 2018, the entire starship is going to blow up. That’s fair. But this is the Giants’ strategy, and it’s at least something worth debating, so stop calling them cheap. They might be wrong, but there’s at least a plan, here.

And next year, when the Giants sign exactly none of the above free agents, you can mumble something about them being cheap. That’s fair. It’ll mean that something didn’t work out, but it’ll be fair. The Giants will have more money to spend than the average team and a reason to spend on them that goes beyond wins, losses, and the fragile ego of an isolated owner. They’ll have marketing reasons to spend. And they probably will.

Until then, forget about J.D. Martinez and Yu Darvish. Even if both of them would help the Giants more than we could possibly imagine next year, it doesn’t fit in with the long-term plan.

Which is a real plan. Probably. Just guessing over here. But if you’re wondering why the Giants have taken such a great effort to stay under the fake salary cap, here’s why. It’s all for next year.