Pirates claim Brandon Wood off waivers from Angels

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Designated for assignment by the Angels last week, Brandon Wood has predictably been claimed off waivers by the Pirates, who had the No. 1 waiver position by virtue of their MLB-worst 57-105 record last year.

That the Angels couldn’t find a team willing to give up something of even marginal value for Wood shows just how far the one-time top prospect’s stock has fallen, but Pittsburgh is certainly an ideal destination.

Ronny Cedeno has hit just .170 through 18 games as the Pirates’ starting shortstop, so Wood should get a chance to wrestle playing time away from him there while also seeing action as a backup elsewhere.

He’s been historically inept through 173 big-league games, hitting .168 with 153 strikeouts versus 13 walks in 494 plate appearances, but despite seemingly being around forever Wood is still just 26 years old and has hit .283 with an .886 OPS over 330 games in the admittedly hitter-friendly environment at Triple-A Salt Lake.

Wood is certainly never going to be the superstar many people projected him to become just a few years ago and the complete lack of strike zone control means he may never even make it as a valuable role player, but there’s still some potential for usefulness and the Pirates can certainly afford to give him a few hundred plate appearances in an attempt to flesh it out.

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.