Angels reportedly close to cutting ties with Scot Shields

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Scot Shields is the last player on the Angels’ roster remaining from the World Series team of 2002, but Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times speculates that his “days in Anaheim appear numbered.”
Shields missed most of last season following knee surgery and has been terrible this year with a 6.05 ERA and 34/31 K/BB ratio in 38.2 innings. Once among the best and most durable setup men in baseball, Shields is now 35 years old and has seen just 19 percent of his action in “close and late” situations this season.
In the final season of a four-year, $18 million contract, the impending free agent is highly unlikely to re-sign with the Angels and according to DiGiovanna could be cut loose as soon as Jason Bulger or Brian Stokes are ready to come off the disabled list.
Because he never racked up many saves Shields tends to get overlooked in discussions of elite relievers, but from 2002-2008 he averaged 90 innings per season while winning 45 games with a 2.98 ERA. Among all active relievers with at least 500 career innings only Mariano Rivera (2.20), Billy Wagner (2.35), Francisco Rodriguez (2.50), and Trevor Hoffman (2.87) have lower ERAs than Shields’ career mark of 3.20.

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.