Dan Haren looked like his usual self through the first two months of the season, throwing 72 innings with a 3.52 ERA and 66/14 K/BB ratio.
Then the calendar flipped to June and he fell apart, allowing 29 runs in 32 innings–including nine homers–spread over six starts. The latest ugly outing came last night, as Haren surrendered seven runs while failing to make it out of the fifth inning against the Indians.
Afterward he finally admitted that the back problems that he managed to pitch through earlier this season are once again an issue and obviously have rendered him ineffective this time around:
It’s just a matter of getting a hold of it because I’m not helping the team right now going out there and pitching the way I am. I’ve tried to suck it up a little bit and do my best out there, but first and foremost is the team. Am I helping the team or hurting the team going out there? So, we’ll go from there.
Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times reports that Haren will be examined by team doctors tomorrow and could be headed to the disabled list. That would be a first for Haren, who amazingly has never been on the DL in 10 seasons as a big leaguer and in fact has never even missed a start while topping 200 innings every year since 2005.
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.