It’s all about Pedro Ciriaco as Red Sox nip Yankees

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Where has Pedro Ciriaco been all season?

The answer, unfortunately for the Red Sox, is buried behind Nick Punto. But Ciriaco, given a chance to shine because of Dustin Pedroia’s thumb injury, came through again Sunday, making another outstanding defensive play at shortstop and singling in the go-ahead run in the 10th in a 3-2 win over the Yankees.

Here’s the video of the grab and the video of the hit.

Ciriaco is hitting .349 and is 6-for-6 stealing bases in 18 games for the Red Sox after being called up earlier this month. He really should have made the team out of spring training, but the Red Sox wanted to carry five outfielders instead of two utilitymen.

That the Red Sox have Ciriaco is actually a result of last summer’s deal to send infielder Yamaico Navarro to Kansas City for Mike Aviles, Boston’s current starting shortstop. The Royals quickly soured on Navarro, sending him to Pittsburgh in a minor trade after the season. That made Ciriaco expendable after two years in the organization, and after he was bumped from the 40-man and became a free agent, the Red Sox signed him to a minor league contract.

It’s doubtful Ciriaco has a future as a regular in Boston — his fast offensive start is a fluke — but his speed and defense could keep him in the league as a reserve for several years. He’d seem to stand a better chance of being around next year than Punto, even if Punto did get a two-year deal to sign last winter.

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.