Forget it, Seattle: The Yankees aren't interested in Cliff Lee

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cliff lee headshot mariners.jpgThe New York Post reported this morning that the Mariners were thinking about trying to peddle Cliff Lee to the Yankees. This afternoon the Daily News reports that they can peddle all they want, but the Bombers aren’t buying:

But despite a published report that suggested the Bombers were interested
in a deal for Mariners lefty Cliff Lee, a team
official told the Daily News that adding a starter is not in the
Yankees’ plans.

“There is no urgency to do anything with the
rotation,” the official said. “That’s not an area that we’re focused
on . . . Seattle may be doing its prep work by scouting a bunch of different teams, but it sounds like they’re doing more prep work than we are on this one.”

So that’s that. Or maybe that’s that. I have to remind myself about this every trade deadline, but a good rule of thumb is to believe absolutely nothin’ nobody says on the record when it comes to trade rumors. If you did, you’d come to think that no one is ever interested in anyone and no one is ever shopping anyone.

This is not to say that the Yankees really are interested in Lee. I just prefer to wait until someone with some connections starts reporting about actual talks to put any stock in these things. Whatever the case, just know that with all trade rumors, the B.S. factor is high. The key is learning how to cut through the B.S.

Or you can just let us do it for you for the next couple of months. We’re kinda good at it.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images
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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.