Texas gave up a strong four-player package to get Matt Garza from Chicago on July 22, paying a premium to pick up the impending free agent for less than half of a season.
When injuries later wrecked the Rangers’ rotation the decision to add Garza looked even more important, but his actual performance since the trade has been lacking. Garza lasted just four innings in a loss to the Pirates yesterday and is now 3-4 with a 4.46 ERA in 10 starts for the Rangers.
He’s posted a strong 63/17 K/BB ratio in 67 innings, but Garza has also served up 10 homers and has allowed at least four runs in six of his last eight starts. Here’s what manager Ron Washington told Todd Willis of ESPN Dallas about what he’s seen from Garza so far:
This guy is a good pitcher. Things haven’t been going the way we would’ve liked for them to go, totally, but the bottom line is when the pitcher takes the mound it’s his job is to keep you in the ballgame. Although he hasn’t been winning ballgames at a rate you think he will, he’s still been keeping us in ballgames.
Not exactly that the Rangers paid for. Of course, if the Rangers make the playoffs and Garza comes through with a couple impressive starts what he did in the regular season will become a distant memory. However, his struggles could lead to Texas missing the playoffs and without knowing what will happen in the future the trade certainly isn’t looking like a good one right now.
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.