Tim Lincecum's arbitration will not set some dangerous precedent

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lincecum wave.JPGBuster Olney quotes some baseball official worrying about Tim Lincecum’s arbitration. Specifically, he worries about the “precedent” a $13 million award could set.  That word he keeps using; I do not think it means what he thinks it means:

There is a lot of sentiment within other organizations for the
Giants to settle the case, because of what could happen if San
Francisco loses the decision, and creates precedent for a player with
three years of service time to make $13 million.

“You can make a
strong case based on precedent and still easily lose this,” said one
official. “[Lincecum’s] record is flawless, and he will be asking for
special consideration — and he could get it. They need to settle this.”

Given that Tim Lincecum is an unprecedented talent at his age and service time, what, exactly, is the problem with him winning an unprecedented award in arbitration? If the system is working like it should, that’s exactly what he should receive.

Put differently: baseball officials should only worry about Tim Lincecum’s
award setting a precedent of $13 million to third year players if
those players are otherworldly talents with multiple major awards like
Tim Lincecum. Last I checked there aren’t a ton of dudes like that.

Unless, of course, all the baseball official is worried about is paying a lot of money to great players in an absolute sense, in which case he’s just a management hack.

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.