Brewers and Twins swap Hardy for Gomez

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For months now the assumption has been that the Brewers would trade J.J. Hardy this offseason and they wasted no time getting a deal done, sending the 27-year-old shortstop to the Twins for 24-year-old center fielder Carlos Gomez.
The deal makes sense for both sides. Milwaukee soured on Hardy during a career-worst season, sending him down to Triple-A while committing to top prospect Alcides Escobar as the long-term answer at shortstop. They also have an opening in center field with Mike Cameron leaving via free agency, and while his bat remains a question mark Gomez is among the elite defensive outfielders in the game.
Minnesota has long been rumored to have interest in Hardy and the fact that his demotion to Triple-A pushed free agency back another season no doubt appealed to the budget-conscious Twins. Gomez fell behind Denard Span and Delmon Young in the Twins’ outfield pecking order, rarely playing down the stretch, and has made little progress offensively since coming over from the Mets in the Johan Santana trade.
Milwaukee picks up a speedy, Gold Glove-caliber center fielder with tons of physical tools who still has plenty of time to develop further offensively. Minnesota gets a relatively young shortstop who’s under team control through 2011 and prior to struggling this season batted .277/.323/.463 with 26 homers in 2007 and .283/.343/.478 with 24 homers in 2008. Some trades just make sense and this is one of them.

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.