Jeremy Barfield is making the transition from position player to pitcher

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Interesting story from Jane Lee of MLB.com about the Athletics’ Jeremy Barfield, who is busy making the transition from position player to pitcher.

Jeremy, the son of former major league outfielder Jesse Barfield, was informed about his move to the mound back in July. An eighth-round pick of Oakland in 2008, the 25-year-old posted a .261/.329/.399 batting line over parts of six seasons in the minors and didn’t appear likely to reach the majors as a position player. The A’s have always been intrigued by his arm strength from the left side, so they are hoping he can follow a similar path as Sean Doolittle, who has made the switch from oft-injured first base prospect to one of the most dominant relievers in the American League.

Barfield started out in the instructional league and recently spent some time in the Dominican Republic for winter ball. A’s director of player development Keith Lieppman understandably still considers him “raw” at this point in his development, but he’s topping out at 93 mph with his fastball and also throws a slider and split-finger.

Interestingly, Barfield learned his slider in part due to former All-Star Dontrelle Willis, whom he met while doing his other job of hanging up Christmas lights on houses in Arizona. Most of those houses are owned by major league players. Barfield uses his second job as a motivational tool.

“All those houses make me want to work harder,” Barfield said, “just so I can live there. All I want is a chance.”

Really cool story. Barfield is very active on Twitter, so be sure to follow his journey there.

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.