Jeffrey Loria has long been on the short list of MLB’s worst owners, but he’s truly outdone himself now by trading Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, just one year after signing them to long-term deals, along with Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck to the Blue Jays on Tuesday.
Of course, the topper is that the move comes one year after the Marlins opened a new publicly funded stadium in Miami.
Loria amassed his fortune as an art dealer. Now he looks like a scam artist. Certainly the bait-and-switch has rarely been pulled off so artfully.
The Marlins had a $95 million payroll in 2012 after signing a trio of big-name free agents in Reyes, Buehrle and Heath Bell last winter. Now all three are gone, with a combined 10 seasons left on their contracts. Also gone are the team’s two most expensive holdovers in Hanley Ramirez and Johnson.
What’s left is a shell of a franchise, one that will almost certainly have the lowest payroll in baseball. More importantly, it will have no credibility in the eyes of its employees or fans. It’s lone remaining star, Giancarlo Stanton, has already expressed his anger. It’s hard to imagine him ever signing a long-term deal with the club, which could mean he’ll be the big name to go next winter.
Loria has now entered two markets and all but wrecked baseball for both of them. It’s in the best interests of the game that he exit for good. Commissioner Bud Selig should step in and apply as much pressure as he legally can in order to get Loria to sell. Otherwise, Loria and the deal that allowed him to trade the Montreal Expos for the Marlins will go down as black marks on Selig’s legacy.
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.