Is Arte Moreno blowing smoke about the Angels offer to Carl Crawford?

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From the same L.A. Times article in which the Angels’ offer to Adrian Beltre was reported, Arte Moreno claims that the Angels never made an offer to Carl Crawford. Why? Never had the chance, he says.  By the time they got to talking to him in Orlando last week he had an agreement with the Red Sox. Alternatively, Moreno says, he was too expensive and if they signed him the payroll would have been out of whack and he would have had to raise ticket prices. Really: he makes the argument that an increased payroll would have led to higher ticket prices, as if those prices aren’t set by supply and demand.

Both of these explanations run counter to what ESPN’s Gordon Edes reported last week.  He had two different sources, one claiming that the Angles matched the $142 million offer but did so too late. Another says that all they made was a $108 million offer which was obviously way too light.

Know what it all sounds like to me?  It sounds like the Angels, despite all of their early-offseason talk about wanting to spend big and make a splash, have real payroll constraints that they don’t want to exceed and which were never compatible with Carl Crawford in the first place.  Disingenuous? Perhaps. Or maybe they just misread the market and didn’t figure contracts would be going loco like they have been. A third possibility: they just moved too damn slow. Whatever the case, Angels fans can’t be a happy lot right now, as their primary offseason target now plays for Boston and their secondary target — Mr. Beltre — has not accepted their allegedly big offer yet.

Know what would make this just perfect? If some other team signed Beltre and, wouldn’t you just know it, the Angels matched the offer ten minutes too late. Darn the luck.

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.