The Yankees’ recent strong stretch combined with the continued stumbling of the Orioles, Sox and Rays has given them a bit of a cushion. That said, they’d still probably want to add a starter if they can. Bur from the sounds of it, they aren’t terribly eager to go big game hunting at the deadlines.
After noting that the Yankees will stay “in the loop” on Cole Hamels, but likely won’t be big players for him because he’ll cost too much, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post handicaps the other top starters on the block:
The Yankees are not interested in Milwaukee’s Zack Greinke, just as they didn’t engage Kansas City in Greinke talks during the 2010-11 offseason. They don’t view his personality as a good fit in New York. The other big-name starting pitcher in his walk year, the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster, doesn’t meet the Lee/Hamels threshold of being a decided upgrade over what the Yankees already have.
The “we’re worried about Greinke’s makeup” thing is kind of frustrating. I think we have enough random data points suggesting that Greinke wouldn’t necessarily crumble under the pressure of New York as opposed to just be kind of out-of-synch with it because he doesn’t play the media game like everyone else does. But we’ll never know, I don’t think, because it just doesn’t seem like someone is willing to take the chance. And Greinke himself may steer himself back to a place like Kansas City or down to Atlanta or something once he hits free agency. Just one of those what coulda been things.
As for Garza and Dempster: I’m a bit dubious of the assertion that at least Dempster wouldn’t be an improvement for the Yankees. Of course, there probably isn’t a team who has fewer legitimate leaks and rumors regarding their actual intentions when it comes to free agents and trades and stuff than the Yankees, so they could very well be doing something and we wouldn’t know much about it until it went down.
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.