Reds hope to get Joey Votto back for the “stretch run”

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After missing a month earlier this season with a distal left quadriceps strain, Reds first baseman Joey Votto returned to the disabled list earlier this week with a recurrence of the very same injury. According to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Reds team medical director Tim Kremchek said this afternoon that while Votto’s return isn’t exactly imminent, the hope is that platelet-rich plasma injections will allow him to come back healthier than before and contribute during the second half.

When asked for context for what Kremchek meant by “stretch run,” Fay writes that the Reds are hoping to have Votto back for the final five or six weeks of the regular season. In other words, he’s likely to miss at least another month.

Brandon Phillips had thumb surgery yesterday and is expected to miss around 4-6 weeks, so the Reds should be in the market for infield depth before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Ramon Santiago is the top internal option to fill in at second base now that Skip Schumaker is on the 7-day concussion disabled list. Meanwhile, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, Brayan Pena, and the newly-recalled Neftali Soto figure to split playing time at first base.

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.