As is usually the case, the Tigers closer situation is uncertain heading into the offseason. That’s because the guy they finally got to stick in the role this past season — Joaquin Benoit — is a free agent. Dave Dombrowski addressed the closer role and other matters yesterday, and John Lowe of the Free Press has the story.
Upshot: sounds like they’re not messing around with Bruce Rondon again. Maybe he’s in the major league bullpen mix, but the Tigers are going to try for a proven closer (to the extent that term means anything). Benoit is one of the proven closer candidates, by the way. Because unlike last May he is now proven. Or something.
Also: Dombrowski surprised no one in saying that it’s unlikely that Jhonny Peralta will be back. They have a shortstop in Jose Iglesias, he said, and while Peralta got some time in left field for Detroit in the playoffs, they still think of him as an infielder. You figure that Peralta will shop himself as a shortstop too, given the relative dearth of offense at that position in the game.
Oh, and go to the end of the article for the mention of Robinson Cano. It’s the first time I’ve seen anyone mention him and the Tigers in the same breath. My assumption is that it’ll be among the last too, as the Tigers’ payroll is already huge. Of course I didn’t think they’d sign Prince Fielder until the moment they did too, so never say never.
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.