Unable to silence Phillies bats, Dodgers go down quietly

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The rotation provided one quality start in five games. The bullpen allowed 14 runs in 21 innings.
The Dodgers really never gave their offense a shot. It seemed like Joe Torre pushed all of the right buttons in the sweep of the Cardinals. This time, he mostly sat and watched. His one clear error was leaving Clayton Kershaw in too long in Game 1. Game 2 was the lone victory, and nothing could have made Game 3 winnable with Cliff Lee on the mound. In Game 4, he made the right calls and his best reliever got beat.
Game 5 featured seven homers, but most of the excitement was drained by the constant pitching changes, leading to very long innings. The Dodgers used three pitchers in the fourth, and the Phillies used three in the fifth. In the end, talent won out. Vicente Padilla was supposed to get hit hard by the Phillies’ left-handers in the series, but it was actually the righties that pounded him Wednesday night. Shane Victorino’s stunning homer off Kershaw in the sixth qualified as the finishing blow. The Dodgers did put together a big threat in the eighth, but James Loney, Russell Martin and Casey Blake all came up empty with the bases loaded. Philadelphia’s offense scored in six of eight innings and won 10-4.
While the Phillies can start preparing to play the Yanke… the ALCS winner, the Dodgers head home with a bunch of questions. Padilla, Randy Wolf and Jon Garland are all free agents, leaving the team with only Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda and Chad Billingsley guaranteed rotation spots. If GM Ned Colletti decides a makeover is necessary to reach the next level, then Billingsley, Martin and Loney are possibilities to be dealt. Juan Pierre could also go. There’d be a whole lot more flexibility if Manny Ramirez chooses to depart, but odds are that he’ll exercise his $20 million option and stick around. With the sudden uncertainty in the ownership situation and so many of the team’s youngsters due healthy raises in arbitration, there might not be as much room for improvement as fans would like.

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.