Astros take Rhiner Cruz from Mets with top pick in Rule 5 draft

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This morning’s Rule 5 draft wasn’t very exciting, as a total of just 12 players were selected from an available talent pool that nearly everyone seemed to agree was somewhat underwhelming.

With the No. 1 pick the Astros selected right-hander Rhiner Cruz from the Mets. He was originally signed by the Tigers as a teenager out of the Dominican Republic in 2004, but they released Cruz in 2006 and he’s been in the Mets’ farm system ever since.

Prior to the draft John Manuel of Baseball America pegged Cruz as someone likely to be selected, noting that his “fastball touches the upper 90s.” However, his results between high Single-A and Double-A this year were mediocre, particularly for a 24-year-old, as Cruz threw 72 innings with a 3.89 ERA and 69/45 K/BB ratio working exclusively as a reliever.

With Cruz off the board the Twins selected 25-year-old right-hander Terry Doyle from the White Sox, adding to their always plentiful collection of control pitchers with low-90s velocity and poor strikeout rates.

Here are all the selections:

1. RHP Rhiner Cruz (Astros, from Mets)

2. RHP Terry Doyle (Twins, from White Sox)

3. RHP Lucas Luetge (Mariners, from Brewers)

4. 3B/OF Ryan Flaherty (Orioles, from Cubs)

5. LHP Cesar Cabral (Royals, from Red Sox)

6. RHP Lendy Castillo (Cubs, from Phillies)

8. SS Gustavo Nunez (Pirates, from Tigers)

21. LHP Robert Fish (Braves, from Angels)

22. OF Eric Komatsu (Cardinals, from Nationals)

23. 3B Marwin Gonzalez (Red Sox, from Cubs)

25. RHP Brett Lorin (Diamondbacks, from Pirates)

29. RHP Brad Meyers (Yankees, from Nationals)

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.