MLBPA files grievance against Astros in regard to draft pick situation

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When the Astros failed to agree to terms with No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken earlier this month, many speculated that the next step would be a grievance against the team from the Major League Baseball Player Association. According to two reports this evening, that’s exactly what has happened.

Here’s the link to the original report from Chass.

While the specifics of the grievance aren’t yet known and aren’t required to be made public, you have surely heard the details of the situation by now. The Astros originally agreed to sign Aiken to a $6.5 million bonus, but they later attempted to leverage him into signing an underslot deal due to questions about his elbow. While a bonus of $3,168,840 was thrown around, their final offer reportedly came in at $5 million. Much of the attention has been focused on Aiken’s plight, but the breakdown between the two sides also affected fifth-rounder Jacob Nix, who had a verbal agreement to sign for $1.5 million contingent on the team also signing Aiken. The Astros’ draft pool shrunk without signing Aiken, so they would have faced penalties had they gone ahead with the deal for Nix.

Casey Close was the adviser for both Aiken and Nix during the process and he offered some pretty strong criticism of the Astros in the media. However, it’s unclear whether they did anything to break the rules. The system isn’t the cleanest in the first place and it actually invites this sort of manipulation with the current draft pool set-up. If anything, Nix got screwed the most by this situation and perhaps the MLBPA will be able to make the case that his agreement should be honored. Or nothing will come of it. Either way, it should be interesting to see how it plays out.

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.