Braves continue to be in limbo as MLB investigates rules violations


As you’re probably aware, Major League Baseball is investigating the Atlanta Braves for scouting and free agent signing infractions in Latin America. The Braves front office is in turmoil as a result of these infractions, with general manager John Coppollela and a top assistant getting fired and, according to some reports, threatening litigation. The team is currently being run by former GM John Hart on an interim basis. The club was denied permission to interview Royals general manager Dayton Moore to fill the vacancies.

It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to jump ship to join the Braves at the moment, as it’s unclear what penalties they will be assessed by Major League Baseball. Yes, the club has a good farm system, but it’s not unreasonable to think that MLB will take away draft picks and, possibly, rescind the signings of one or more international free agents as punishment. Unless and until that’s cleared up, the Braves aren’t going to have a ton of great candidates to choose from to fill their GM vacancy.

That limbo is going to last even longer, reports Jerry Crasnick of ESPN:

Baseball’s general manager meetings begin in Orlando on Monday, so John Hart — who may or may not still be with the club after penalties are announced — will represent the team. The Winter Meetings begin on December 10. It’s hard to imagine that the club will have someone permanent in place by then. Even if they do, his knowledge of the team and its assets will likely be limited due to having such little time on the job.

All of which is to say that the offseason is going just wonderfully for the Braves so far. Absolutely spiffy.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

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.