Freddy Sanchez seemed like a worthwhile midseason pickup at the time. After all, he was a 31-year-old career .300 hitter batting .296/.334/.442 in 86 games with the Pirates and the Giants desperately needed some help offensively.
Instead of providing a big upgrade at second base Sanchez has hit just .284/.295/.325 while missing half of San Francisco’s games with shoulder and knee injuries, the latter of which will require surgery at some point. For the now the Giants are still clinging to slim playoff hopes, so Sanchez will try to put off surgery until the offseason and contribute something down the stretch.
Perhaps the bigger question is whether the Giants will exercise their $8.1 million option on Sanchez for next season. At the time of the trade that seemed like a foregone conclusion, but Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News now calls it “almost automatic” that they’ll decline the option and “talk to Sanchez about a two-year contract at a lower figure.”
Baggarly also notes that both the Giants and Pirates were aware that Sanchez would likely require offseason knee surgery when they made the July 29 trade. In fact, Sanchez sat out a three-game series against the Giants directly preceding the swap. Asked if he regrets trading a quality pitching prospect in Tim Alderson for what has turned out to be 25 games of terrible hitting and mediocre defense from Sanchez, Giants general manager Brian Sabean said:
I know at the time we made the trade everybody was all-in, including the medical team, that we could keep him on the field,. The bigger thing with Freddy is he hasn’t been on the field because of other things, including the left shoulder. He didn’t have the chance to be out there on a regular basis. You can’t deny that Freddy, when he’s been out there, has been every bit a No. 2 hitter that we didn’t have, and an All-Star second baseman.
Of course, you can deny exactly that, because Sanchez has a lowly .295 on-base percentage and .325 slugging percentage for the Giants, which isn’t exactly ideal atop the lineup. Perhaps the Giants will end up re-signing Sanchez at a discounted rate and perhaps he’ll bounce back with a healthy, productive 2010, but so far the trade has been a bust and with several quality middle infielders set to become free agents this offseason the Giants are probably right to decline Sanchez’s option.
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.