When the standouts don’t stand out

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Obviously, offense in the year 2013 isn’t what it used to be.

Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt led the National League this year with a .954 OPS and was tied with Pedro Alvarez for first with 36 homers. It’s hardly a knock against him to say that those aren’t the totals we’re used to seeing leading the league.

Goldschmidt’s OPS was the lowest for a first-place finisher in either circuit since 1991, when Barry Bonds topped the NL at .924. The 36 homers is the lowest total to lead a league since the Padres’ Fred McGriff hit 35 in 1992.

Miguel Cabrera led the AL with 37 homers in 2008 and there were a couple other sub-40 leaders since, so it’s not completely shocking to see the 36 homers pacing the NL. Still, it is pretty stunning that just three got to 30 in all. Jay Bruce was third with exactly 30. Domonic Brown, Hunter Pence and Justin Upton all tied for fourth at 27.

Compare that to 2001. The homer totals from Goldschmidt and Alvarez would have tied for 14th in the NL that year.  When Moises Alou, J.D. Drew and Pat Burrell hit 27 homers that year, they tied for 27th in the league, a far cry from fourth.

The AL did quite a bit better in the power department, with Chris Davis’s 53 homers leading the way. Nine American Leaguers hit 30 homers. Only eight got to 100 RBI, though, and a mere four scored 100 runs, led by Mike Trout’s 109. In 1999, 30 American Leaguers drove in 100 runs and 28 scored 100 runs. Trout’s run total was the lowest to lead the AL in a non-strike year since 1976.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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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.