Alex Cora’s formal introduction as the Red Sox manager has been delayed until today due to the fact that, you know, his Houston Astros won the World Series, had a parade and have been in recovery mode since last week. Now it’s all Red Sox for Cora. Until he himself starts talking about the new job later today, we’ll content ourselves to reading about what other people say about him and his new gig.
An interesting example of that can be found in the Boston Globe. There Pete Abraham has a story about how Cora’s time as an ESPN analyst helped prepare him for the Red Sox job. All of the quotes in the story are from ESPN people talking about how Cora approached his job as an analyst. There’s a reference to Buck Showalter and Terry Francona spending time at ESPN in between managing posts, but they aren’t quoted. I’d be curious to hear if they thought that kind of work helped them. I can imagine them either scoffing at the idea or saying, yeah, it made you look at the game a different way. No idea. I can’t say that it’s a topic I’ve thought about much before. In the absence of any actual baseball news today, it’s interesting to consider.
Anyway, even if the ESPN folks are overselling how important Cora’s work at ESPN was in his preparation as a manager, I can’t imagine that it would hurt for a guy coming to Boston to have as much media experience as possible. It’s probably a bigger part of the job there than it is in any other baseball town.
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.