Daily Dose: Hamels, Phillies keep rolling

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Last week I wrote about why Cole Hamels’ disappointing win-loss record and bloated ERA misleadingly showed a big decline compared to last season when in reality he’s been nearly as good with just a lot less luck. Hamels was nice enough to make me look smart Tuesday night, hurling a complete-game, two-hit shutout for a 1-0 victory over the Giants.
Even with that masterful outing Hamels is still just 8-8 with a 4.26 ERA, but as noted last week nearly all of the underlying numbers that make up his performance are just as good and in some cases better than they were last year. He’s every bit the same stud as last season, Cliff Lee is 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA since joining him in the rotation, and the Phillies have now won 15 of 20 games.
While the defending champs look awfully scary after building a large enough lead to coast down the stretch, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Monday’s trading deadline nearly came and went without any big action, but just as the clock was about to strike midnight the Dodgers made a pair of moves to pick up Jim Thome and Jon Garland for the final month. Thome is obviously a big name and put up big stats for Chicago with 23 homers and 74 RBIs in 107 games, but there’s no designated hitter in the NL and he hasn’t played first base regularly in years.
Immediately after the trade was announced Monday night Thome explained that he’s not physically capable of being anything more than an emergency option at first base and general manager Ned Colletti later confirmed that he’s being brought in strictly to serve as a pinch-hitter and possible DH for the World Series. That crushes Thome’s fantasy value while leaving James Loney’s mediocre upset intact.
* Along with sending marginal prospect Justin Fuller to the White Sox to get Thome as a bench bat the Dodgers also shipped a player to be named later that’s believed to be Tony Abreu to the Diamondbacks for Garland and enough money to cover his remaining 2009 salary and $2.5 million buyout for 2010. Abreu is an intriguing player now that he’s healthy again, but at that price the move was a no-brainer for L.A.
Garland recovered from a rough first few months to post a 3.45 ERA over his last 12 starts, but at 29 years old he’s well established as merely an innings eater. Garland is 8-11 with a 4.29 ERA and 83/52 K/BB ratio in 168 innings overall, has had an ERA under 4.20 just once since 2002, and features one of the worst strikeout rates in the league. Not a bad pickup for the Dodgers, but not worth much for fantasy teams.
AL Quick Hits: Carlos Carrasco was rocked in his MLB debut Tuesday, allowing five hits and a walk to the first six batters he faced … Michael Young will undergo an MRI exam after leaving Tuesday’s game with a strained hamstring … Sean Rodriguez will be a nice AL-only sleeper next season after coming to the Rays as the player to be named later for Scott Kazmir … On a related note, Andy Sonnanstine rejoined the rotation Tuesday in Kazmir’s old spot … Grady Sizemore may choose to have elbow surgery before the end of the year to guarantee that he’ll be ready for 2010 … Jose Guillen returned from the disabled list Tuesday after sitting out since mid-July with a torn knee ligament … Adam Jones exited Tuesday’s game with an ankle injury that looked relatively serious … Ken Griffey Jr. missed Tuesday’s game with a sore left knee … Carlos Pena blasted his MLB-leading 39th homer Tuesday to go along with just 38 singles.
NL Quick Hits: David Wright returned from the disabled list Tuesday after two weeks on the sidelines thanks to a Matt Cain beaning … St. Louis has reportedly extended closer Ryan Franklin’s contract through 2011 … Nate McLouth (hamstring) is slated to begin a rehab assignment Thursday at Single-A … Jose Contreras will make his Rockies debut Saturday … John Maine (shoulder) has begun a throwing program in the hopes of pitching again this season … In an effort to keep his workload in check, Mat Latos will be shut down for the year after making one more start Saturday … As expected, Jason Giambi joined the Rockies as a bench player Tuesday … Arizona acquired Kevin Mulvey from Minnesota as the player to be named later from Friday’s trade for Jon Rauch … Kyle Lohse (groin) threw a 40-pitch simulated game Tuesday and reported no problems … Johan Santana (elbow) and Oliver Perez (knee) both underwent successful surgeries Tuesday morning by the same doctor.

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.