Terry Collins was thrust in between a rock and a hard place tonight.
A) Let one of the most expensive pitchers in major league history, a guy who happens to be coming off shoulder surgery, top his previous career high in pitches in search of the franchise’s elusive no-hitter
B) Pull his left-handed ace, something that surely would have happened in the eighth had he already allowed a hit or two, and try to protect his team’s investment while also likely increasing his team’s chances of completing the no-hitter by bringing in a right-handed reliever to face three straight right-handed hitters.
Obviously, he chose A. I imagine every manager in the league would have done the same. It would have been extremely difficult to go the other way, assuming that Johan Santana wanted to stay in. I do think the Mets would have had the better chance of getting the hitless ninth with Frank Francisco or Bobby Parnell facing Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and David Freese. Santana, though, got the job done, giving the Mets their first no-no in their 51-year history.
Repercussions, if there are any, will take time to manifest. Santana had never topped 125 pitches in 273 career starts before throwing 133 pitches tonight. He hadn’t thrown more than 108 pitches in a start this season. The Mets will almost surely give him an extra day or two off before his next start. But rightly or wrongly, if he breaks down again later this year, people are going to point to tonight as the cause.
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.