As rumors swirl around the Rockies’ asking price for Ubaldo Jimenez and various teams’ interest level in the 27-year-old right-hander, Jimenez made it clear yesterday that he’s not looking to be traded and wants to remain in Colorado for the rest of his career, telling Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post:
As a player, you always want to be on the same team for your whole career. I’d like to finish my career here, but that’s something you can’t control. Baseball is a really good game, but there’s a business side. You want to be an example when you talk to other guys about being in the organization. You always want to set a good example for guys coming from another team or the minor leagues. They’ll do what’s best for the team.
Jimenez signed with the Rockies out of the Dominican Republic as a 17-year-old, so he’s been in the organization for 11 years. He also inked a long-term contract extension in January of 2009 that keeps him under team control through 2014, which has actually made him a more attractive trade target.
And unlike most pitchers Jimenez’s career numbers suggest that he wouldn’t benefit a ton from no longer calling Coors Field home, as he has a 3.68 ERA in 413 innings in Colorado compared to a 3.51 ERA in 425 innings on the road. His numbers would likely be better elsewhere because every pitcher would benefit from not having to pitch half his games at Coors Field, but so far at least Jimenez has been very well-suited for Colorado’s ballpark and the extra run support there has made him 29-19 at home versus 26-25 on the road.
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.