The “Justin Verlander should be given MVP consideration” train has been gaining steam this past week. Buster Oleny is shoveling the most coal, but I suppose he’ll be joined by others soon.
I don’t deny that he should be given consideration. The rules of the MVP award are clear in stating that pitchers should be considered. Says so right on the ballot the writers fill out. And, of course, pitchers have been the MVP before even if there have been some times when they’ve been screwed out of the MVP award, though, as any fan of Pedro Martinez could tell you.
So no, I don’t think one should leave a pitcher off the MVP ballot. But as the Verlander talk heats up, it’s worth noting that his manager does. Here’s Jim Leyland on a WXYT radio yesterday:
“I have a different viewpoint than that. I think there should be a Most Valuable Pitcher and Most Valuable Player. I don’t think a pitcher should be the Most Valuable Player. I’m not looking for arguments or controversy I just think when a guy goes out there 158 times or 155 times and has a big year, an MVP type year I don’t think the guy that goes out there 35 times should be named over that guy.
Interesting. I don’t agree with him, but interesting.
And for what it’s worth, consideration is one thing and giving a guy the award is something else entirely. I would consider Verlander. But though I have yet to sit down and really think about it yet this year I think Jose Bautista has to be the guy to win it because (a) I don’t believe that the quality of one’s teammates should have any bearing on whether they win an individual award; and (b) Jose Bautista has simply been a better, more productive baseball player than Verlander has been this year.
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.