Baseball established its Department of Investigations back in 2008 following a recommendation in the Mitchell Report that it actually, you know, investigate PED use and other violations of MLB’s rules. While it was seen as somewhat toothless for a while, last year’s investigation and suspension of Alex Rodriguez and the other Biogenesis players showed that, when it wants to, MLB can go after its own with the best of ’em.
Maybe too zealously, actually. The bad behavior by the DOI has been well-reported. And, really, it was ultimately a legal and tactical strategy — not an investigative one — that helped MLB turn the corner in its investigation. Specifically, getting Anthony Bosch to flip when the league sued him and then paying his astronomical legal fees is what won the day.
All of which led to a house-cleaning at DOI. Back in May it fired several of the DOI people involved in the investigation and gave the Department a general shakeup. Now it has named a new leader of its investigative team:
Major League Baseball has hired Bryan Seeley to lead its Department of Investigations, Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced today. Seeley will be MLB’s Vice President, Investigations & Deputy General Counsel.
Since 2006, Seeley has served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. Beginning in 2010, he prosecuted federal white-collar cases as a Senior Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Fraud and Public Corruption Section. In that capacity, Seeley led fraud investigations involving government procurement fraud, bank fraud, health care fraud, securities fraud and embezzlement, along with public corruption investigations involving bribery and kickbacks. From 2006-2010, Seeley prosecuted cases in D.C. Superior Court and U.S. District Court involving violent crime, illegal narcotics and property-related crime, a role in which he interviewed hundreds of witnesses and tried more than 30 cases.
A guy with that kind of background — and presumably the sorts of strong ethics possessed by most AUSAs — is a welcome addition.
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.