Major League Baseball is getting angry at Tom Hicks

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While everyone keeps assuming that the sale of the Texas Rangers to the Greenberg Group is imminent and that no one should be worrying, the fact is that the Friday deadline has come and gone and there’s still no deal.  Could last month’s report of financial difficulties be the problem? Or is it something new? Jon Heyman reports that all isn’t as rosy as everyone wants it to seem, and the problem is Tom Hicks, who is acting as both seller and (minority) buyer in this deal:

But MLB has about had it with Hicks, and top officials say they may
soon take over the sale of the team, which potentially could bring the
other two hopeful buyers back into the picture, those being Houston
businessman Jim Crane, and former agent, and current White Sox executive, Dennis Gilbert, who has appeared to be baseball’s top choice from the start. The sale
price is expected to be $570 million, according to sources. One
impediment to a deal has been Hicks’ insistence upon maintaining
significant power even after collecting the sale proceeds. Greenberg’s
big edge had been that he was willing to allow Hicks to remain as a
board member who’d attend owners meetings.

MLB fronted Hicks millions in order to meet payroll and expenses last summer.  One wonders, based on what Heyman is saying, what kinds of strings were attached to that deal. Could they just step in and make the deal with Greenberg — or call Crane or Gilbert — against Hicks’ wishes?

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.