Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the Yankees are contemplating Mark Reynolds, Michael Young and Brian Roberts as they seek to add to their infield.
Reynolds would be a re-signing after finishing last season with the Bombers. He hit .236/.300/.455 with six homers in 36 games with the Yankees and .220/.306/.393 with 21 homers in 445 at-bats overall. Young came in at .279/.335/.395 in 519 at-bats with the Phillies and Dodgers, while Roberts hit .249/.312/.392 in 265 at-bats for the Orioles.
As things stand now, the Yankees are looking at Kelly Johnson at second base, Eduardo Nunez at third base and Derek Jeter at shortstop, with Brendan Ryan in a reserve role, assuming that Alex Rodriguez’s suspension is upheld. Ideally, they could find someone capable of challenging both Johnson and Nunez for at-bats, but there really isn’t anyone like that left in free agency, unless they want to go the Yuniesky Betancourt route. Of what’s left, Eric Chavez would probably be their best option. However, he’s a big injury risk. Reynolds and Young would both be more attractive if they weren’t such poor defenders. As is, the return of Reynolds seems the most likely scenario.
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.