Angels' faith in Scot Shields misplaced

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With Brian Fuentes on the DL, the Angels are definitely short-handed in the bullpen. I’d argue that they’re down to two above average relievers, one of whom, Fernando Rodney, happens to be struggling, having given up four runs in four appearances after finishing with an 8.53 ERA this spring.
The other, Kevin Jepsen, is the most important piece in the bullpen right now. He bailed the Angels out in the eighth inning Wednesday against the Yankees after Scot Shields got the team into a big jam in what had been a 5-1 game.
It’s Shields who looks like the biggest problem in the Angels pen right now. It’s not that he’s necessarily worse than Francisco Rodriguez or Brian Stokes. But the problem is that Mike Scioscia is treating him as a valuable setup man when he barely rates as a fringe middle reliever.
Shields was scored upon for the third time in four appearances before being replaced by Jepsen on Wednesday. With his velocity down after last year’s knee surgery, he’s allowed six runs (three earned), five hits and four walks in just 2 2/3 innings. His WHIP stands at 3.38.
The fact is that Angels GM Tony Reagins blew it over the winter. It’s typical that the Halos have avoided minor league free agents, particularly on the pitching side of the equation, as they usually prefer their internal replacements. But it was obvious that the team was terribly lacking in the depth department going into the spring. The Angels should have been all over guys like Kiko Calero, Joaquin Benoit, Joe Nelson, Ron Mahay and others who slipped through the cracks over the winter, but they didn’t have a single veteran non-roster pitcher compete for a bullpen job this spring.
They’re going to pay for it now. They should consider themselves awfully lucky if someone from the group of Francisco Rodriguez, Fernando Rodriguez, Bobby Cassevah and Michael Kohn steps up to become a useful reliever. Actually, the best hope may be their former No. 1 starting pitching prospect, Jordan Walden, who was shifted to the bullpen this spring and is currently a co-closer in Double-A.
In the meantime, expect Shields and company to struggle. I’m certainly not giving up on these Angels, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they’re still in last place in the AL West into mid-May.

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.