Mariners turned down trade for Jorge Posada in 1995

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In the wake of Jorge Posada’s retirement following an 1,829-game career spent entirely with the Yankees comes a story about how he was almost traded to the Mariners as a prospect way back in 1995.

Larry Stone of the Seattle Times has the details:

Management deemed that they couldn’t afford Tino Martinez, so he was on the trade block. GM Woody Woodward focused on the Yankees, who needed a first-base replacement for retiring Don Mattingly. Posada at the time was a 23-year-old catcher who had spent the ’95 season at Triple-A Columbus. For Columbus, he had hit .255 with eight homers and 51 RBIs, striking out 101 times in 108 games. … Posada was a well-regarded prospect, nothing more, nothing less.

According to a story by long-time Mariners beat writer Bob Finnigan in the Seattle Times on Dec. 4, 1995, the Mariners nixed a trade that would have sent pitcher Sterling Hitchcock and Posada to the Mariners for Martinez and a reliever, either Jeff Nelson, Bill Risley, or, wait for it, Bobby Ayala. The same report of a nixed trade that would have sent Posada to the Mariners was in the New York Times and New York Daily News.

Stone goes on to say that the primary reason the Mariners backed out of the trade is that the Yankees insisted on including Posada instead of Seattle’s preferred target, Russ Davis. That changed a short time later when the Yankees signed Wade Boggs to play third base, making Davis expendable, at which point they traded him to the Mariners with Sterling Hitchcock for Tino Martinez, Jeff Nelson, and Jim Mecir.

And that 23-year-old prospect named Jorge Posada stayed with the Yankees and became one of the 20 best catchers in baseball history.

It turns out Seattle had a pretty good long-term answer behind the plate in Dan Wilson, but those star-studded teams of the late 1990s and would have been even more dangerous with Posada in a lineup that also included Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, and Jay Buhner.

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.