The Yankees fell to the Blue Jays 3-2 this afternoon at Rogers Centre in Toronto, which means the Orioles could move into a tie for first place in the American League East with a win over the Red Sox tonight. (Editor’s note: Baltimore won 4-3)
The Yankees had plenty of chances to blow this game open, but simply failed to take advantage. They loaded the bases against Ricky Romero in the first inning, but only managed a pair of sacrifice flies. The leadoff hitter reached base in each of the next four innings, but none of them came around to score.
Romero left the game after three innings with left knee discomfort, but Shawn Hill came up big by tossing three scoreless frames in his first appearance in the majors since 2010. He also got the victory.
Andy Pettitte allowed three runs over 5 2/3 innings for his first loss since returning from a fractured ankle. The veteran southpaw was pulled with two runners on in the sixth before Adeiny Hechavarria delivered a go-ahead RBI double off Joba Chamberlain. Yan Gomes was caught napping around third base on the very same play, but the Yankees couldn’t get anything going against Brad Lincoln, Steve Delabar and Casey Janssen.
The Yankees will send Phil Hughes to the hill tomorrow while Henderson Alvarez pitches for the Jays. If the American League East ends in a tie, there will be a one-game playoff on Thursday in Baltimore.
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.