Peter Gammons has this habit — which I love by the way — of casually dropping bombs in such a way that is sounds like it’s not news at all. But as far as I can tell, this is news:
Everyone in the business understands that the Mets did not insure
Beltran, so that when team physician Dr. David Altcheck and trainer Ray
Ramirez signed off on Dr. Richard Steadman’s decision to perform
arthroscopic surgery in Vail, Colo., it was clear they were afraid that
their worst time-frame fears might be realized and that Beltran could
be out for — and paid for — much of the 2010 season.
I’ve not seen anyone say that the Mets didn’t insure Beltran’s contract. If that’s the case, wow. Sure, you may eat it if your fourth outfielder or lefty specialist goes down, but how do you not insure the centerpiece of your team?
That aside, everything I’ve read previously frames the Mets’ failure to sign off on Beltran’s surgery as the team simply dithering. But were they dithering because they’re simply incompetent when it comes to getting things done or, as Gammons suggests, were they hoping to block the surgery and get Beltran out on the field at some limited percentage rather than have to pay a player to sit on the DL? It’s great sport to make fun of the Mets’ decisions, but if it truly was the latter in this case we’ve gone from more or less benign bumbling to something much, much more troubling.
And for what it’s worth, Gammons reports that it’s almost certain that Jeff Wilpon knew about the surgery stuff all along, implying that he was the one holding off on giving his OK. In light of this it would not shock me in the least if Omar Minaya’s reluctance to be out in front of this the other day, and instead, have assistant GM John Ricco be the team’s spokesperson, was a function of Omar not wanting to be the fall guy for his boss’ incompetence. If that was the case, good for Omar. His imminent termination will probably come as a relief.
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.