Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department


Reader 1

Nayana Bose

Reader 2

Mark Huber

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Rights Information

© 2017 Emma C Knoesen


From 1997 to 1999 and 2003 to the present, Major League Baseball has had a luxury tax on high payroll teams. This paper analyzes the impact of the tax as a budget constraint on teams’ ability to reward and retain high performing players. In contrast to other papers, we use wins above replacement (WAR), a popular sabermetrics statistic, to measure performance. Using this metric, we quantify the number of top performers, how this performance is rewarded with salary, and how salary impacts players’ mobility decisions. We conclude that when using WAR, the distribution of performance is not heavy tailed and rather follows an exponential distribution. Our results suggest that there are fewer top performers in periods with a luxury tax/budget constraint. We use efficiency wage theory to understand this decrease in top performers as the result of a decrease in motivators. We understand two different mechanisms of motivating performance: (1) under a stochastic budget constraint, managers did not choose to extend the contracts of top players; and (2) under a fixed budget constraint, managers decreased the monetary reward for an increase in performance. Both these mechanisms decrease the motivation for top talent to perform highly.