Adding Damon would be too little, too late for Red Sox

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The Red Sox pretty obviously have a need for Johnny Damon. No, mediocre defensive left fielders with 764 OPSs aren’t particularly valuable, but Damon is getting on base 36 percent of the time and he’d likely improve his numbers with a return to Fenway Park, where he’s a career .305/.376/.440 hitter.
Damon, though, probably doesn’t need Boston. Sure, the Red Sox are stil theoretically in contention for a playoff spot, while the Tigers are clearly dead in the water, but it’s highly unlikely that the Boston will make up 5 1/2 games on the Rays or 6 1/2 on the Yankees with just 37 games remaining.
And Damon isn’t the kind of player who would affect their chances much one way or the other. For one thing, they’ve actually gotten steady production from the likes of Bill Hall and Darnell McDonald in the outfield. Damon, who would replace either Ryan Kalish or Daniel Nava on the roster, would only be an upgrade against right-handers and probably not a particularly big one. He wouldn’t deserve to play over either Hall or McDonald against left-handers.
For that reason, Damon is probably better off staying where he is. The Tigers are going to keep playing him every day, and they could well have interest in re-signing him this winter. There’s very little chance the Red Sox would attempt to bring him back in 2011.
Damon doesn’t exactly control his own destiny here: the Tigers have the right to pull him back off waivers even if he says he wants to go to Boston. Damon, though, can’t be moved with his approval. He has until Wednesday to decide if he wants out, and it sounds like he’ll probably take his 48 hours to decide.

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.