Bullpen looks like Phillies' only weakness

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Prior to Brad Lidge’s arrival Brett Myers served as the Phillies’ closer for most of 2007, converting 21-of-24 saves with a 2.87 ERA and 64/18 K/BB ratio in 53.1 innings as a reliever.
Myers has spent most of this season on the disabled list following hip surgery, but with four scoreless appearances in five tries since returning two weeks ago he’s seemingly an alternative to Ryan Madson as the replacement closer now that Lidge has pitched himself out of ninth-inning duties.
However, manager Charlie Manuel said yesterday that Myers is not an option yet:

Watching him the three or four times we’ve run him out there, he’s not quite ready. He still has some problems at times. It’s kind of like he’s back in spring training. He’s not 100 percent. He has soreness, which is kind of normal because he missed so much time. Right now, he’s not ready to be turned loose.

For the most part the Phillies look incredibly strong heading into the postseason. Offensively they lead the NL in homers, doubles, slugging percentage, and runs scored. Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez are a combined 12-2 with a 2.74 ERA since joining the team, Cole Hamels has gone 3-1 with a 1.43 ERA in his last five starts, and the presence of Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ makes for perhaps the deepest rotation in baseball.
Yet all the good hitting and all the strong starting pitching can go for naught in the postseason if relievers can’t hold leads and Lidge’s collapse combined with Chan Ho Park’s hamstring injury and Myers’ uncertain status has turned the Phillies’ bullpen into a major question mark. Luckily they have a 7.5-game lead in the NL East and three more weeks to sort things out before embarking on their title defense.

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.