I tell ya, I woulda lost money if I had bet on the Marlins at the beginning of the season. No, not because they have failed to be a championship team. Rather, because I would have given them at least a year before the sell-off began, not less than four months.
Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante were traded. Hanley Ramirez is gone. Josh Johnson is being shopped (more on this in a few minutes). All of these may very well end up being wise baseball moves at some point down the road, but coming as they do after all of the money spent to benefit Jeff Loria and the Marlins by Miami taxpayers, all of the hype Loria created and basically demanded and all of the fan attention that, reluctantly, after years of having their hopes crushed by a penny pinching owner, was given to this team, this sell-off is an insult to Marlins fans.
This truly is remarkable. Between 2004 and 2011, the Marlins averaged the lowest payroll in all of baseball. Then they are handed a sweetheart deal on a new stadium, get everyone’s hopes up for the first time in nearly a decade and … after three-plus months, 40% of the rotation, the second baseman, the third baseman and possibly the closer are out the door. On a team that can more accurately be described as underperforming as opposed to fatally-flawed. A team that, if the roster they had three days ago was kept together, could reasonably be expected to play better baseball in the second half and into next season but now won’t get to.
Someone, somewhere, explain to me why anyone in Miami should give a flying fish about the Marlins? What possible reason should any baseball fan in south Florida have for giving a dime to a team run by Jeff Loria?
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.