Injury forces should-be Hall of Famer Jim Edmonds to retire

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Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that Jim Edmonds has decided to retire rather than attempt a comeback with the Cardinals because the Achilles’ tendon injury he suffered late last season “has not come around.”

It’s a shame too, because Edmonds remained a very productive player last season even after sitting out all of 2009. He hit .276 with a .342 on-base percentage and .504 slugging percentage in 272 plate appearances for the Brewers and Reds, and was set to compete for a bench spot with the Cardinals after signing a minor-league contract last month.

My sense is that Edmonds has little chance to actually convince the voters that he’s deserving of a place in Cooperstown, but to me he’s a pretty clear Hall of Famer. He finishes as a career .286/.376/.526 hitter with 393 homers and his relatively modest total of 1,949 hits is due in part to his outstanding total of 998 walks. Those numbers are impressive in any context–he has a higher OPS and more homers than recent Hall of Fame inductee Jim Rice, for instance–but they really stand out among fellow center fielders.

Edmonds is one of just seven center fielders in baseball history with more than 350 homers and the others are Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Mickey Mantle, Andruw Jones, Duke Snider, and Joe DiMaggio. He also ranks among the top 10 center fielders of all time in RBIs, walks, slugging percentage, OPS, and extra-base hits. Oh, and he’s an eight-time Gold Glove winner (for whatever that’s worth).

Add it all up and Wins Above Replacement (WAR) on Baseball-Reference.com pegs Edmonds as 68.3 wins better than a replacement-level center fielder for his career, which is the seventh-highest total of all time sandwiched in between Griffey (78.5 WAR) and Snider (67.5). If you think the Hall of Fame should probably include the 10 best center fielders in baseball history, then Edmonds belongs.

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.