The Pirates have their first NL MVP since 1992 after Andrew McCutchen received 28 of the 30 first-place votes on Thursday to easily top Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt for the award.
Goldschmidt finished second with 242 points to McCutchen’s 409. He was second on 15 of the 30 ballots. Yadier Molina finished third with 219 points. He got the two first-place votes that didn’t go McCutchen, both coming from St. Louis Post-Dispatch scribes.
After Molina were Matt Carpenter (194), Freddy Freeman (154), Joey Votto (149), Clayton Kershaw (146), Hanley Ramirez (58), Carlos Gomez (43), Jay Bruce (30), Craig Kimbrel (27) and Shin-Soo Choo (23). Goldschmidt and Gomez were the only players in the top 12 not to be part of a playoff team.
Barry Bonds was the Pirates’ previous MVP, winning in 1990 and 1992. Before that, Willie Stargell was co-MVP with Keith Hernandez in 1979 and Dave Parker won the award in 1978.
McCutchen hit .317/.404/.508 with 21 homers, 84 RBI and 27 steals to lead the Pirates’ on their surprising postseason run last season. He had even better numbers in 2012 (.327/.400/.553, 31 HR, 96 RBI), but he settled for one first-place vote and a third-place finish in the MVP balloting then with the Pirates winning 15 fewer games (79-83 to 94-68).
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.