This Buck stops in Sacramento

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With the Triple-A season over, the A’s are set to make their final round of callups on Tuesday, but barring some late-season outfield injuries, Travis Buck won’t be rejoining the team.
The then 23-year-old Buck was shaping up as one of the AL’s most promising rookies in 2007. Debuting not even two years after the A’s made him a supplemental first-round pick out of Arizona State, he hit .288/.377/.474 in 285 at-bats. However, injuries played a significant role even then. Buck missed time as a rookie due to wrist, elbow, thumb and hamstring problems, with the latter two injuries requiring DL stints. He later underwent elbow surgery after the season.
Buck went on to open 2008 as a regular, but he returned to the DL before the end of April, this time with shin splints. Upon his return, he was optioned to Triple-A and he spent most of the season there, missing additional time with an inner-era infection and a concussion. He was penciled in as the primary right fielder again last year, but he very quickly fell into a part-time role. An oblique injury struck at the end of May, and again he spent most of the rest of the year in Triple-A.
The story remained the same in 2010. Again he opened the season on the major league roster, and he started on Opening Day for the third time in four years. However, he was placed on the DL on April 22 with a strained oblique and he’s been a non-factor since. In the three years since his strong rookie campaign, Buck has hit .215/.284/.377 with 11 homers in 302 major league at-bats. Also, his Triple-A performance has been far more solid than spectacular. He hit .272/.345/.418 in 266 at-bats for Sacramento last year. This year, he came in at an improved .298/.364/.463 in 141 at-bats.
The A’s were obviously largely unimpressed. They signed Jeremy Hermida last month and opted to give him an opportunity rather than provide Buck one last chance to stick. Now denied a September callup, it seems certain that Buck will be dropped from the 40-man roster this winter.
Buck probably yet has something to offer, but only if he can stay healthy. He’ll just be entering his age-27 season next year, and he remains a fine defender in an outfield corner. Hardly a one-dimensional player, he has a better all-around game than most of the corner outfielders/first basemen one sees get tagged with the quad-A label. It’s doubtful that the A’s would ask for anything significant in return, so maybe the Royals or Indians could pick him up now for a three-week audition.

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.