Mike Ilitch may be Johnny Damon's only hope

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Mike Ilitch.jpgReally he may be Scott Boras’ only hope, as outlined by Morosi in his latest FOX column.  After recounting the well-known story about how Boras failed to accurately read the market for Damon, Morosi traced Boras’ steps:

Boras retreated to a bunker in his Newport Beach
lair and broke the emergency glass over a seldom-used manual:
How to create a market for stars using duct tape and chicken
wire … two weeks before spring training.

It’s been some time since Boras has delved this deep
into his playbook. He didn’t need to go to extraordinary
lengths at this time last year, when it was widely assumed that
Manny Ramirez was going to be a Dodger. 
This is different. Boras is trying to find a new lead suitor
at a time when many teams are finalizing their rosters for the year
ahead.

So, he’s doing for Damon what he did for Ivan Rodriguez
in 2004 and Magglio Ordonez one year later. In each case, the
handbook prescribed the same first step.
Get Tigers owner Mike Ilitch on the phone.

And it has to be Ilitch, because GM Dave Dombrowski and others in the Tigers’ front office have already said no-way on Damon.  The owner and his money trumps, however, and given his track record, I could see him finding an extra couple of million for Damon and Boras.

I’m kind of torn about it. On the one hand, I kind of like Johnny Damon as a player, I hate seeing him twist like this, and I think that at his current price — which I figure is going to be a year and maybe $5 million — he’d be a nice addition to the Tigers. On the other hand, I really would like to see Scott Boras get burned in spectacular fashion once in a while because, well, just because.

I try to limit my schadenfreude intake as much as possible, however, so I suppose I’ll root for the former outcome and hope that Damon and the Tigers hook up soon.  And then we can all get on with our lives.

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.