With Rafael Soriano and left fielder Ichiro Suzuki combining to bail him out of an eighth-inning jam, David Robertson didn’t take his fourth loss in his last 10 appearances today in the first game of a doubleheader against the Blue Jays. He came pretty close, though.
Robertson gave up hits to four of the six batters he faced and allowed two runs while getting two outs today. His struggles forced the Yankees to bring in their closer in the eighth, something they certainly didn’t want to do in the first of two games on the day.
Now they’ll enter the second game versus Toronto with their closer having already thrown 23 pitches today and the setup man 26, making one wonder how they might deal with a late lead should one arise.
Robertson, who is 1-7 on the year, has allowed seven runs in nine innings this month. On the plus side, it’s not due to walks, which were an early career problem for him. In fact, he has an 11/0 K/BB ratio in September. He also has a fine 2.98 ERA for the season. He is getting hit, though. He’s given up five homers and 50 hits in 54 1/3 innings this season. Last year, he allowed one homer and 40 hits in 66 2/3 innings.
Yankees pitchers are pretty much conditioned to go seven innings a start. In fact, Yankees starters have recorded a total of one out after the seventh inning this month (Phil Hughes went 7 1/3 innings against Boston last week). Robertson is going to be a very important piece in any deep run into the postseason. Nothing in the way he’s throwing suggests that he can’t bounce back, but if he doesn’t, the Bombers are going to have problems.
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.