The Mets have floated the possibility of using R.A. Dickey on short rest at various times this season, but that talk has died down in recent weeks as the team has faded in the standings. However, Mets manager Terry Collins raised the possibility again this afternoon after Dickey finished off a complete game 6-1 victory over the Marlins.
Dickey is now tied with Angels right-hander Jered Weaver for the major-league lead with 15 wins while the knuckleballer ranks fourth in the National League in ERA (2.72) and first in strikeouts (166), WHIP (1.00) and complete games (three). The Mets haven’t had a Cy Young Award winner since Dwight Gooden in 1985 or a 20-game winner since Frank Viola in 1990, so Collins told Anthony DiComo of MLB.com that he would consider using Dickey more often in September in order to boost his chances.
“Will I? I certainly might, yes,” Collins said. “He certainly deserves that shot. I thought Jose Reyes deserved to win the batting title last year, too. I got criticized for that, and I may get criticized for this.”
Reyes, of course, exited the final game of the regular season last year after reaching on a bunt single in the first inning. It wasn’t without controversy, as Reyes was booed as he left the field and Collins was brought to tears in his post-game press conference, but the speedy shortstop ended up beating out Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun to become the first player in Mets history to win the National League batting title.
Dickey predictably said all the right things when asked about the possibility, noting that he doesn’t want the individual to overshadow over the team.
“I would not want to be on three days’ rest purely to win more games,” Dickey said. “If we can claw back in this thing and they think that I give our team the best chance to win, or a good chance to win, then I’m willing to do that. And I’ve voiced that. But we’ll see where it goes.”
If Dickey stays on his current schedule and pitches every fifth game, he currently projects to make 10 more starts this season.
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.