Buster Olney of ESPN.com reported earlier this week that Craig Counsell has cleared waivers and the veteran infielder said yesterday that he’d be open to a trade to a contender.
Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin sought approval from Jim Edmonds before trading him to Cincinnati and Counsell indicated that Melvin discussed a similar possibility with him.
You always know it’s possible. We’ve talked about it. We talked about it last year. We’ve talked about it this year. We try to keep things upfront. I appreciate it a lot, for sure. I know I’ll hear stuff that’s important from Doug first. He said people have called but that’s it.
As a soon-to-be 40-year-old hitting just .246/.317/.305 in 83 games this season Counsell won’t be at the top of any contender’s wish list for a stretch-drive pickup, but he’s still capable of drawing some walks, getting on base, and providing some defensive versatility in a part-time role.
Counsell told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he’s leaning toward returning for a 16th season in 2011, but added that the idea of going to a contender is “intriguing” because “as you get older you want to win” and “you don’t know how many years you’ve got left.”
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.