The Astros may be sold soon

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Back in November, Astros owner Drayton McLane said that he was going to sell the Astros. On Friday he told MLB.com that he has made “substantial inroads” toward selling the team, with one of the three possible suitors being a familiar name: Houston businessman Jim Crane.

You may recall that Crane — along with Mark Cuban — came very close to snatching the Rangers away from Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan last summer.  As such, the first question that springs to mind in hearing Crane’s name mentioned is whether Cuban is also involved.  There have been no reports to that effect since this report surfaced on Friday, however. And it is worth noting that Crane has not required Cuban’s capital to get involved in bidding on sports teams before. Indeed, Crane came very close to buying the Astros when McLane was shopping the team following the 2008 season, but that deal fell through for nebulous reasons.

No one is sure who the other two ownership candidates McLane mentioned are. But Crane is local and that sort of thing usually sits well the types who can help or hinder deals like this. Given that his name has spilled out — and given that in-depth profiles are already being written about him in the local press — you kinda have to figure that he’s the front runner, no?

And yes, I know that this isn’t the current Astros logo, but I like it much, much better. Crane or whoever next owns the Astros can’t bring it back as such — they no longer play in the dome after all — but the orange and blue should come back, as should the caps with the “H” in the middle of the star. Because those things are Right and True.

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.