As we covered earlier, St. Louis got a bonus pick for the 2015 First-Year Player Draft (just after the first round) in Wednesday’s Competitive Balance Lottery. Yes, a team that has made the playoffs 10 times since 2000 and advanced to the NLCS or further in three straight seasons got a handout. And it’s not sitting too well with an executive of the Cardinals’ traditional rival — Cubs president Theo Epstein.
Here’s Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com …
The president of baseball operations fired a shot in the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry after St. Louis won an extra draft pick in Wednesday’s competitive-balance lottery.
“I could talk all day about the Cardinals and how much we hold them in high regard,” Epstein said. “That’s a fantastic franchise. They have been for the better part of a century. They do extremely well from a baseball standpoint, and from a revenue standpoint. That’s probably the last organization in baseball that needs that kind of (an) annual gift.”
“Because it’s not necessarily the type of thing that they need, given their performance on the field and off the field,” Theo continued. “They do a fantastic job. It just doesn’t seem like something they need at this point.”
The Cardinals were eligible for the Competitive Balance Lottery because they play in one of the 10 smallest markets (by population) in Major League Baseball. But with a century-old history of success and a fanbase that extends over several surrounding states, they don’t exactly function like a small-market franchise.
A high-ranking executive predicted to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that the Cardinals will use their competitive balance pick to land Rays ace David Price. Yes, unlike most draft picks, these can be traded.
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.