MLB Draft Winners

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Colorado – 11th overall pick Tyler Matzek was the best
high school pitcher in the draft, and outfielder Tim Wheeler and
left-hander Rex Brothers were nice grabs at No. 32 and No. 34,
respectively. Second-round third baseman Nolan Arenado also could have
been picked earlier. The Rockies could have gone cheap in order to free
up more cash for Matsek, who is sure to demand a big bonus, but they
decided to keep adding legitimate prospects. If they get everyone
signed, they’ll again have one of the most talented farm systems in the
league.

Kansas City – The Royals were believed to be considering
catcher Wil Myers at pick No. 12. They instead took Aaron Crow there,
only to find Myers still available when their next turn came up at No.
91. Crow, the Nationals’ first pick last year, is a future third
starter or closer. Fourth-round Chris Dwyer could be a third player to
command a seven-figure bonus.

Texas – 14th overall pick Matthew Purke and 44th
selection Tanner Scheppers were both viewed as top-10 talents by some.
Scheppers, who was drafted by the Pirates last year, fell because of
concerns about his shoulder, but he should be signable after already
sitting out one year after college. Third-rounder Robbie Erlin and
fifth-rounder Ruben Sierra Jr. also could have gone much earlier. The
Rangers probably won’t sign them all, but adding three of the four to
the system would be a nice coup. Unfortunately, the skeptic in me
wonders if Tom Hicks’ team took so many tough signs because the well is
empty and the team didn’t want to pay slot money to players who would
be more eager to take it.

And from the it could have been worse department…

Brody Colvin – Rated Baseball America’s No. 43 prospect,
Colvin, a high school righty, fell all of the way to the seventh round
and pick No. 227. However, once there, he landed with the Phillies, a
team that should be willing to spend after being the last team to make
its first pick Tuesday. Because of the Raul Ibanez signing, the
Phillies were without a first-rounder and didn’t draft until pick No.
75.

Kyle Heckathorn (RHP Brewers), Tyler Skaggs (LHP Angels), Kentrail Davis (OF Brewers)
– All three players may have expected to get the call in round one, but
slipping to the supplemental round wasn’t such a bad thing. Unlike true
first- and second-rounders, supplemental picks aren’t protected, so if
these players go unsigned, their teams won’t get bonus picks next year.
That will give the teams more incentive to sign the players.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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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.