In a move that will lead to immediate speculation about top prospect Jesus Montero’s arrival in New York, manager Joe Girardi informed Jorge Posada prior to tonight’s game that he’ll no longer be the Yankees’ primary designated hitter.
Eric Chavez got the start at DH tonight against the Red Sox, with Girardi telling reporters: “At this point I thought I had to do what I did today.”
Asked about the conversation, Posada revealed that Girardi “said he’s going to put the best lineup on the field and he doesn’t know when I’m going to DH again, so right now I’m sitting the bench.”
Posada has hit just .230 with a .681 OPS overall in the final season of a four-year, $52 million contract, including only two extra-base hits in 56 at-bats since the All-Star break. However, according to Girardi there are no plans to release Posada and if Chavez struggles it’s conceivable the Yankees could turn back to him at DH. Unless, of course, Montero gets the call up first.
Montero, who ranked third on Baseball America‘s annual list of top prospects coming into the season, has hit .289 with 11 homers and a .789 OPS in 89 games at Triple-A. Those are incredibly impressive numbers for a 21-year-old at Triple-A, but don’t necessarily project to thriving in the majors quite yet.
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.