Manager Bruce Bochy will get to call on another Giant.
Aramis Ramirez would have been the choice to take Placido Polanco’s spot on the NL All-Star team, but he’s following through with his plans to go home to visit family in the Dominican Republic. As a result, Pablo Sandoval will go to his first All-Star Game.
There was a groundswell to make Sandoval an All-Star back when he was on his way to hitting .330 with 25 homers in his first full season in 2009, but there was no room on the roster for him then, and Sandoval was such a disappointment in 2010 that the Giants threatened to send him back to the minors to begin this season if he didn’t get into better shape.
Sandoval, though, did drop some weight, and he’s excelled when healthy during a 2011 season interrupted by a broken hamate bone. He’s hit .305/.345/.505 with eight homers in 190 at-bats, and he carried a 20-game hitting streak into Sunday’s action.
Sandoval will be the lone Giants positions player on the NL roster, but he will have plenty of teammates to hang out with; Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and closer Brian Wilson were all originally picked for the squad last week.
4:45 p.m. EDT: And, apparently, I’m still wrong. Sandoval is going to the All-Star Game, but he’ll be the replacement for Jose Reyes. We still don’t know who is taking Polanco’s spot. Presumably, it will be a shortstop (Stephen Drew?).
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.