The “candlesticks scene” from Bull Durham
has forever taken most of the mystique out of players holding
conferences on the mound, but the “exchange” that A.J. Burnett and
Kevin Cash had yesterday was still pretty amusing.
Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News explains:
At one point in the fifth inning, Burnett threw a couple of bad
pitches that made Cash believe he needed a little break. Cash didn’t
have any words of wisdom for his pitcher, so he made his way to the
mound, picked up the rosin bag, dropped it back to the ground and
headed back to the plate.
“I didn’t say anything, I just let him catch his breath for a
minute,” Cash said. “He had just thrown a couple of pitches off the
plate, and I didn’t have anything to say, but I walked out there and
bought some time, let him settle back in.”
Burnett was very confused. “I thought he was going to say something,
then he didn’t,” Burnett said. “It was one of those moments. I was
expecting something, but there was nothing. Maybe he just wanted to
stir it up a little. I was like, ‘Good talk, Cash.'”
Okay, let’s get two! Go get ’em!
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.