Which Baseball Team Should Manny Machado and Bryce Harper Sign With – If They Care About Taxes?

We’re still in the middle of baseball’s hot stove season – the sport’s offseason, when franchises juggle their rosters via trades and free-agent signings.

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We’re still in the middle of baseball’s hot stove season – the sport’s offseason, when franchises juggle their rosters via trades and free-agent signings. There are dozens of free agents looking for contracts with new teams, but let’s face it: All eyes are on superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.

Machado and Harper are asking for contracts worth more than $300 million (opens in new tab) and, who knows, they just might get them. If so, they’ll be hit with some pretty big tax bills to go with the huge salaries. Their federal tax totals won’t be affected by which team signs them, but their state taxes certainly will. That’s because the bulk of what they earn will be taxed at the highest income tax rate in the state where the team is located, and state income tax rates vary widely. State sales tax and property tax rates differ even more. (Note: Athletes also pay state income taxes in most states to which they travel for road games throughout the season.)

By most reports, there are seven teams still in the running for one (or both?) of these two superstars: the New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals. Machado and Harper will have to consider many different factors before signing with any team, but how much money they can make—and keep—will most certainly be a key factor in their decisions. Signing with a team in a low-tax city could save Machado and Harper millions of dollars each year.

We’ve ranked the teams likely to sign Machado or Harper according to the estimated state tax burden where each team is located (highest tax to lowest). Take a look.

Rankings are based on 2018’s tax rates and projected $30 million per year in taxable income from the contract. We also assume the player will become a resident of the state where his team is located, file a joint return, and claim the standard deduction.

Rocky Mengle
Senior Tax Editor, Kiplinger.com

Rocky is a Senior Tax Editor for Kiplinger with more than 20 years of experience covering federal and state tax developments. Before coming to Kiplinger, he worked for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting and Kleinrock Publishing, where he provided breaking news and guidance for CPAs, tax attorneys, and other tax professionals. He has also been quoted as an expert by USA Today, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Reuters, Accounting Today, and other media outlets. Rocky has a law degree from the University of Connecticut and a B.A. in History from Salisbury University.