Braves still hopeful Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson will return this season

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The composition of the Braves’ postseason rotation could go a variety of ways depending upon how much progress Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens make over the next three weeks.

While Hanson is currently sidelined with a small undersurface rotator cuff tear in his right shoulder, it sounds like he’s a lot closer to returning than Jurrjens. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hanson reported no discomfort after throwing from a distance of 120 feet Monday. He is at least one week away from a rehab start, but hopes to make one or two starts with the Braves before the regular season comes to a close.

The news isn’t nearly as rosy for Jurrjens. While Dr. Richard Steadman in Colorado confirmed the original diagnosis of a bone bruise in his right knee and ruled out any structural damage, the right-hander was advised to not throw off a mound for two weeks. The Braves haven’t ruled him out, but this would seem to give him little time to prepare in order to be a part of the NLDS roster. Jurrjens had arthroscopic surgery on the same knee last October and missed the playoffs.

The Braves currently have Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe and Brandon Beachy as locks for the postseason rotation and would likely fill the fourth spot with rookie left-hander Mike Minor if Jurrjens and Hanson are unable to return.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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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.