Seems like storylines are flying all over the place this week involving Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and it’s only Tuesday. Time to sift through the muck:
– On Sunday, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com ran a quote from a White Sox source who had this interesting tidbit about the club’s desire to obtain Gonzalez: “That’s really what we need, a big left-handed hitter,” said the Sox source. “They’re saying [General Manager] Kenny [Williams] would give anything to get him, maybe even Gordon Beckham.”
– The baseball world was given a quick response to that notion this afternoon, when White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen revealed his undying love for the young Beckham. “We plan to have Gordon for a long time,” said the skipper. “I
don’t see why people talk about it.” He hasn’t heard anything about a possible trade because no trade is being discussed. Or, probably. The White Sox are known for moving in mysterious ways and Williams, one of the more interesting GMs in the game, is also a wizard at controlling the message.
– HardballTalk’s own Matthew Pouliot analyzed a possible Beckham-Gonzalez swap in a post earlier this evening.
– There’s one thing we know for sure: Gonzalez, a San Diego native, is probably on his way out of the city (and probably the state of California) by the end of this calendar year, and maybe as soon as the July trade deadline. We know this because Tim Sullivan of the San Diego Union-Tribune says Gonzalez is going to ask for a free agent contract similar to the $180 million monstrosity that Mark Teixeira signed with the Yankees last offseason. It’s pretty apparent the Padres are not going to pay that.
Gonzalez, 27, has batted .279/.371/.519 with 106 home runs, 318 RBI and 105 doubles over the last three seasons while calling the ultimate pitcher’s park his home. He is under team control through 2011, for what it’s worth.
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.