MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Royals still appear interested in Cardinals’ right-hander Lance Lynn, though any potential deal might be on hold for the time being. Lynn is rapidly approaching free agency at the end of the 2017 season and has already attracted a number of serious suitors, including the Astros, Yankees and Rockies. While he likely won’t command the kind of return that, say, Sonny Gray will, he’s considered one of the top starters left on the market. The ball is still firmly in the Cardinals’ court, however, and ESPN’s Buster Olney adds that they have yet to announce whether they intend to move the veteran righty at all.
Lynn, 30, is serving his sixth season with the Cardinals. Entering Friday, he carries a 3.21 ERA, good for 12th-best among qualified major league starters, and has maintained a 3.1 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 through his first 120 2/3 innings this season. While his production rate hews close to his career stat line, it’s made all the more impressive in light of the devastating UCL injury that caused him to miss the entire 2016 season.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals may just be biding their time until the fervor surrounding the Athletics’ Sonny Gray dies down. Lynn, for his part, has been vocal about his desire to stay in St. Louis, though Goold notes that no extension talks appear to be in the works right now. Whatever the case, time is running out for teams to execute a deal prior to Monday’s non-waiver deadline. For those still on the fence, the right-hander is scheduled to make a final pre-deadline start on Sunday afternoon against the Diamondbacks.
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.