At least one major leaguer is not pleased with the Jon Singleton deal

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An eighth round pick with no big league experience probably doesn’t have a ton of money in the bank. So when he signs a deal that guarantees him $10 million and could net him $35 million despite the fact that he is three years from having any sort of negotiating leverage it’s not exactly a sad story.

But Jon Singleton’s story is an interesting one that goes to the heart of team-player power dynamics. As in, Singleton obtained that $10 million worth of security by giving up the chance to snag many times that amount of money if he’s even a slightly above average major leaguer over the next few seasons. And the Astros used their collectively-bargained leverage over him to maximal levels in order to get that deal. In essence, they told him that if he wants to be in the bigs now, he has to sign. He signed.

While all of that went down between two willing parties and was subject to the clear rules of the system, some people aren’t too happy about that. One of those people is Orioles pitcher Bud Norris, who thinks Singleton made a bad deal that could set a bad precedent for other players:

I get that sentiment. If one player takes a deal that saves the team a ton of money and could cost the player a ton if things break right there will be more attempts by teams to get players to take such deals. Over time, that lowers salaries and that’s not a good thing from the players’ and union’s perspective. And even for Singleton himself, if he comes up and puts up even one good half season before signing anything, he stands to make much more even on a deal that buys out his arbitration and one of his free agent years.

But even if I see all that — and even if I’d handle it differently for myself or advise Singleton differently if I were his agent — I’m having a hard time getting on board with Norris and any other players or union folks who have a problem with this.

For one thing, it’s Singleton’s life and $10 million over five years is likely to change it dramatically. If he got his arm lopped off by a dwarf with a battle-axe tomorrow, he’d have a cushion of cash on which to live. We talk about player and contract value in the quasi-abstract all the time and to some extent we become immune to how large these numbers we talk about are. This is Singleton’s life and Singleton’s choice and union politics aside, that has to be respected.

[RELATED: How does Singleton fit into Houston’s lineup?]

But more to the point: the Bud Norrises of the world (i.e. veteran players) are what subjected Singleton to the Astros’ leverage in the first place. It’s not written in stone that players don’t reach arbitration for three years and free agency for six. That was negotiated by the union. A union which, in recent years anyway, has frequently seen fit to bargain away the rights of amateur and minor league players in negotiations at the expense of things that better-serve veteran players. Why are there slotting and bonus caps in the draft now? Why do minor leaguers make almost zero money and live in deplorable conditions? It’s because no one with the power to help them out — be it the teams who control their destiny in the first instance or the players who could use their power to help them out in the second instance — gives much of a crap about them. Maybe if Singleton’s life in Oklahoma City was more comfortable he’d feel more comfortable waiting the Astros’ out and negotiating a better deal for himself. I guess we’ll never know.

Clearly this is a difficult issue — any gamble on one’s own future that could impact others’ futures brings with it some hard choices — but it takes a pretty entitled and narrow-minded person to not see that Singleton’s incentives were predetermined and his choices somewhat limited by virtue of a system that was set up long before het had to make his choice.

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.