No Bill, the Dodgers could not have had Cliff Lee: Now with Update

Leave a comment

The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke goes on and on this morning about how the Dodgers’ “whiffed” in nixing a trade for Cliff Lee at the deadline:

Why did the Dodgers sacrifice the chance to acquire Lee, the starter stolen instead by the Phillies at the trading deadline, the guy who brilliantly held the Dodgers to three singles in eight innings of puzzled stares?

Why did the Dodgers sacrifice a sensible postseason rotation, forcing Joe Torre to hand the ball to a spooked Hiroki Kuroda, who threw it well for all of about one batter?

Except they didn’t sacrifice anything because they were never in the running to land Cliff Lee.  There was a single Ken Rosenthal piece back in July that had Lee going to the Dodgers for James Loney and either Clayton Kershaw or Chad Billingsley. At the time the Dodgers said that there was “less than zero truth” to the rumor.  Even better, the shooting down of that rumor came from Plaschke’s very own paper. There was zero speculation, informed or otherwise, of any other possible deal and no indication whatsoever that the teams talked.

Sure, it would be nice if the Dodgers had Cliff Lee, but it would be nice if they had Albert Pujols, Tim Lincecum and the reincarnation of Honus Wagner too.  And all of them, it seems, had just as good a chance of becoming a Dodger last summer as Cliff Lee did.

There are plenty of reasons to slam the Dodgers this morning, Bill, but failing to trade for Cliff Lee is not one of them.

 

UPDATE:  CBS’ Danny Knobler has multiple quotes from Dodgers’ GM Ned Colletti saying that, yes, the Dodgers were actively trying to get Lee and were almost there:

The way Colletti tells it, the Dodgers tried very hard. Colletti didn’t come right out and say he thought the Dodgers had offered more for Lee than the Phillies did, but he was willing to say they offered a lot.

“We offered four guys,” he said. “We were choking on the third guy, and we went to the fourth [too].”

That certainly changes my comments re: Plaschke’s piece.  But, based on the quotes I used to form my opinion on Plaschke’s piece in the first place, it also shows that the Dodgers told a bald faced lie to the Los Angeles Times back in July. 

The rumor business: it’s ugly stuff.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images
11 Comments

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.