Neat idea from Sam Mellinger at the Kansas City Star:
In Zack Greinke, the Royals have a superstar with more unabashed love
from the local fan base than anybody else in baseball with possible
exceptions for Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, and Albert Pujols . . . The Royals should take full advantage of this by selling a flex season ticket package to cover all of Greinke’s starts.
Neat, but probably unworkable. As Sam himself points out, you may not know until 2PM one afternoon if Greinke is going to start that evening and that would create logistical problems. Sure, maybe you could limit them, and Sam suggests some ways to do it, but there would still be a lot of hassle involved.
I think the bigger problem, however, would be less one of logistics than of incentives. I don’t know the cut of Trey Hillman’s jib when it comes to this kind of thing, but what happens if ownership installs a total company man in the manager’s office and more or less forces him to do whatever he can to pitch Greinke (or whatever star on whatever team comes up with such an idea) against the less desirable opponents, thereby bumping sales on what would otherwise be a low draw? Or what if he’s strongly encouraged to pitch Greinke more than he otherwise would, such as late in the season when the game doesn’t matter and the guy could totally use a day off. In either scenario the tail of commerce is wagging the dog of competition (or some other terrible metaphor to that effect).
No, I don’t think such a sinister plot is likely, but the mere existence of a bad incentives can be a bad thing in and of itself and the law of unintended consequences can be a bitch, so it’s probably best not to go down that road.
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.