The Tampa Bay Rays made a series of moves that turned some heads amongst baseball fans on Saturday and the Los Angeles Angels joined in on the action.
The Tampa Bay acquired first baseman C.J. Cron from the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday in return for a player to be named later. The Rays followed up the transaction by trading right-handed pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Minnesota Twins for minor league shortstop Jermaine Palacios, and designating 2017 All-Star Corey Dickerson for assignment in order to open up a spot for Cron on their 40-man roster. Following the loss of C.J. Cron, the Angels signed 1st baseman slugger Chris Carter to a minor league deal.
This recent string of intriguing trades and signings sparked a great deal of controversy amongst baseball fans and has some thinking that the Rays are beginning a rebuild, and others thinking they know something that we baseball fans don’t. These deals have caused a great deal of confusion, so this article will (hopefully) show why these deals were made, and how they benefit each team.
First, let’s take a look at the C.J. Cron deal.
C.J. Cron was traded to the Tamp Bay Rays on Saturday in return for a PTBNL (player to be named later). The Rays then designated the former AL All-Star starting designated hitter Corey Dickerson for assignment. This gutsy move came as a surprise to most and at first, glance seemed absurd. So, let’s try to make sense of the matter
C.J. Cron has hit exactly 16 home runs for the Angels in each of his last three sequential seasons. During his 4-year MLB tenure, Cron has hit 59 home runs to accompany his .262 career batting average. The 28-year-old slugger had a meager 2017 season, slashing .248/.305/.437 with 99 OPS+ (100 is league average) with 16 homers, 56 RBI, and a 0.8 in 373 plate appearances.
Corey Dickerson, on the other hand, had a career year in 2017, making the All-Star team (Dickerson started at DH for the AL All-Star team), and hitting a slash line of .282/.325/.490 with a 120 OPS+ (100 is league average). Dickerson also clubbed 27 home runs with a .241 batting average and a .282 on-base-percentage. Corey Dickerson put up a 2.8 WAR as well.
The Tampa Bay Rays are a notoriously penny-pinching team and the acquisition of C.J. Cron and the untimely discharge of Corey Dickerson may likely be the result of diminishing expenses. Corey Dickerson was set to earn $5.95 million in 2018, while C.J. Cron is not even going to make half of that ($2.3 million). There is reasoning here, but it still seems absurd that a team would depart with their top slugger (especially after the Evan Longoria trade) in order to cut $3.65 million out of the payroll. (The Rays are still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million until they find a trade partner which seems likely.)
Cron has spent a good deal of time down in the minor leagues and never truly had a consistent spot with the Angels, so they never truly saw his full potential. It is possible that the Rays are taking this chance because they see something in Cron that the Halos don’t. While it is unlikely, it is possible.
While the trade for Cron is somewhat surprising, and the Dickerson DFA seems downright absurd, there is reasoning (as laughable as it may seem) for these moves.
Following the loss of slugger C.J. Cron, the Angels went out and signed Chris Carter to a Minor League deal. Carter will earn a $1.175 million salary if he is able to make the Angels’ Major League roster and can earn another $600,000 in incentives.
Carter struggled immensely with the New York Yankees last year before being released in July. Chris Carter hit .201/.284/.370 with 8 home runs and 26 RBI in 208 plate appearances. The Oakland Athletics took a chance and signed Carter later that month, but he, unfortunately, spent the rest of his season with Triple-A Nashville. The Angels are now giving Carter a shot at the Major Leagues as well as adding veteran depth in the area they lost with Cron’s signing.
Now, why don’t we take a look at the Jake Odorizzi trade?
Jake Odorizzi was sent to the Minnesota Twins for minor league shortstop Jermaine Palacios. Odorizzi has been the topic of many trade discussions and it seemed inevitable that he would be shipped off sometime during this tame offseason. Odorizzi beat the Rays in arbitration for the second year in a row in 2018, after filing at $6.35 million as opposed to the Rays offer of $6.05 million.
Jake Odorizzi logged a 4.14 ERA with a 127/61 strikeout/walk ratio across 143.1 innings in 28 starts in 2017. Odorizzi also amassed a 10-8 win-loss record. Jake was perfectly average from a WAR and ERA+ standpoint, posting 0.0 and 100 (100 is league average) respectively. The 28-year-old will likely see a boost in stats in 2018 as well after moving from Tropicana Field to the much more pleasant Target Field.
The return for Odorizzi was the unheralded prospect Jermaine Palacios who batted .296/.333/.454 between Class-A Cedar Rapids and Class-A Fort Myers last year. The 21-year-old prospect was ranked No. 27 in the Twins’ system last season and is expected to continue developing as a shortstop (although he has seen time at third base and second base during his 4-year Minor League career).
The fact that Odorizzi has been traded does not surprise me personally, but the return does. Odorizzi has been known to give up the long ball quite frequently, but I was still somewhat surprised that the Rays did not try to squeeze a little more out of the Twins. The fact that the Rays were willing to give Odorizzi up for so little just shows how lacking their interests in keeping him were.
All in all, these deals, while strange at first glance, make sense after deeper examination. The Tampa Bay Rays will now have a power hitting first baseman (C.J. Cron) that will cut down the payroll and give the Rays more financial breathing room (as opposed to them keeping Corey Dickerson), Tampa will have a shortstop in the minor league system that they can develop or use as trade bait for a pitcher of higher stature than Jake Odorizzi.
The Los Angeles Angels will also benefit by clearing up their payroll while giving Albert Pujols the ability to focus on first base rather than fighting for a job with Cron. Even if the Shohei Ohtani (Pitcher/Designated Hitter)/Albert Pujols (First Base) experiment does not work out, they will have a backup plan with Chris Carter.
These intriguing moves prove to baseball fans that there is always more than just what meets the eye and there is always a thought process behind every deal and signing. Regardless of whether we make sense of them right off the bat or not.