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The Cardinals acquire Juan Nicasio from the Phillies

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A week ago the Pirates waived reliever Juan Nicasio. It was a strange move, as he has been pretty dang effective this year. Pirates GM Neal Huntington explained the move at the time as a strategic one, aimed at both moving on from Nicasio, who is not in the Pirates’ 2018 plans due to his impending free agency while keeping him away from a “direct competitor,” if he was simply released or dealt after being claimed on revocable waivers. On outright waivers teams with bad records can claim him for nothing, so it was less likely that he’d go to a good team.  He ended up being claimed by the Phillies.

So much for that plan, because now the Phillies have traded Nicasio to one of the Pirates’ “direct competitors”

Nicasio is still a free agent after this season, so he can go anywhere. But it’s hard to see how this is not the outcome Neal Huntington claimed he was trying to avoid when he let Nicasio go.

In any event, the Phillies get send infield prospect Eliezer Alvarez back from the Cardinals. Nicasio can’t pitch for the Cardinals in the playoffs if they make it, but he can certainly help them get there. I’m sure Pirates fans are pleased that he’ll help them along.

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.