Alex Rodriguez continued his rehab assignment yesterday at Triple-A, going 1-for-3 with a single, and afterward told Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York that he “was a little tentative, a little hesitant” coming back from July 11 knee surgery.
Rodriguez also played six innings defensively at third base, making one putout, and is scheduled to start there again tonight, with a Thursday return to the Yankees on tap if things go well.
Rodriguez compared his current rehab to coming back from hip surgery in 2009, saying “those last few hurdles are more mental than physical.” However, according to Mazzeo’s recap of the game it sounds like he has some physical issues as well:
Rodriguez botched a pair of foul popups, failing to catch up to one in the fourth, and then overrunning one in the fifth. Both gaffes drew boos from the majority of those in attendance. … After singling in the first, Rodriguez looked tentative as he jogged around first base. He jogged to second after catcher Jesus Montero singled, but was stranded there.
One of the greatest players of all time getting booed while rehabbing knee surgery at Triple-A sounds like one of the saddest things ever, although I suppose that’s become sort of par for the course with Rodriguez.
Mazzeo also notes that he “was sporting a massive ice wrap on his right knee during his postgame press conference with the media” and Rodriguez scoffed at the notion of being close to 100 percent healthy.
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.