Tampa Bay Rays Acquire C.J. Cron, Trade Jake Odorizzi, DFA Corey Dickerson
We’ll start with Cron, the first baseman the Rays just acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for a player to be named later. Cron, 28, will make $2.3 million this season. He will be eligible for free agency after the 2020 season. The Rays needed a first baseman, and they needed more right-handed bats. Cron makes sense for them in that regard. But how good is he?
Well, since debuting back in 2014, Cron has 1,475 plate appearances over 408 MLB games. He’s slashed .262/.307/.449, with 59 home runs, 68 doubles, and 213 RBI (107 WRC+). Cron played in 100 games last year, and slashed .248/.305/.437, with 16 home runs, 14 doubles, and 56 RBI (99 WRC+). Frustrated with his lack of development, the Angels even optioned Cron to Triple-A at one point last season. In 22 games for the Salt Lake Bees, Cron slashed .268/.344/.488 over 96 plate appearances, with four home runs, six doubles, and 23 RBI (111 WRC+).
The Angels may have run out of patience with Cron, but this seems like a worthwhile chance to take on a guy who could fill a big need for the Rays. Tampa Bay will hope a change of scenery can help him realize the potential that made him the 17th-overall pick of the 2011 draft.
In their most surprising move, the Rays designated outfielder/designated hitter Corey Dickerson for assignment. Dickerson, 29 in May, hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 64 extra base hits, and 62 RBI in 629 plate appearances over 150 games last year (115 WRC+). It’s not often that a guy like that gets DFA’d.
However, Dickerson also made our list of last year’s most disappointing Rays. A first half that saw him hit .312/.355/.548 and get the nod as the American League’s starting DH for the All-Star Game gave way to a second half in which he hit just .241/.282/.408. Looking to lower their payroll, and with Dickerson owed $5.95 million this season with free agency looming after next season, the Rays, perhaps believing Dickerson’s extremely aggressive approach means he won’t be able to sustain the type of performance he had in the first half of last season, have decided to move on. That part isn’t surprising. What’s surprising is that he was DFA’d. It will be very interesting to see what happens with him now.
They may have preferred to trade Denard Span, whose contract the Rays had to take back from the San Francisco Giants in the Longoria trade, but ultimately weren’t able to find a taker. Span is owed $9 million this season. He will also be owed a $4 million buyout if his $12 million mutual option for 2019 isn’t exercised.
Odorizzi Traded To Minnesota
The Rays have also traded starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for shortstop prospect Jermaine Palacios. Odorizzi had been the subject of trade rumors for pretty much the entire offseason. Like Dickerson, he’s eligible for free agency after next season, and like Dickerson, he made our list of last year’s most disappointing Rays. Odorizzi pitched 143.1 innings over 28 starts for the Rays last year, going 10-8 with a 4.14 ERA and an ugly 5.43 FIP. Home runs were a big problem for him; he gave up 30, good for an average of 1.88 per nine innings. His 2017 performance, combined with his $6.3 million salary this year, made him a prime candidate to be moved out in Tampa Bay’s effort to reduce payroll.
The Rays rotation depth also made Odorizzi expendable. Their rotation to start the season now looks like it will feature Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jake Faria, Matt Andriese, and Nathan Eovaldi, with top prospects Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon likely starting the year waiting for their call in Triple-A, and Austin Pruitt also still around as an option to start if needed.
As for Palacios, MLB.com had the 21-year-old as Minnesota’s 27th-ranked prospect. He split last season between Single-A and High-A. In 62 Single-A games, Palacios hit .320/.362/.544, with 11 home runs, 13 doubles, and 39 RBI in 276 plate appearances (154 WRC+). That earned him a call-up to High-A, where in 62 games he hit .269/.303/.359, with two home runs, eight doubles, and 28 RBI in 263 plate appearances (92 WRC+). He also has some speed, as he hit 10 triples and stole 20 bases last year. He will likely begin this year with the Rays High-A affiliate, the Charlotte Stone Crabs.
Are The Rays Done Making Moves?
If the Rays are able to trade Dickerson, then by moving him and Odorizzi while adding Cron, they will have cleared almost $10 million off a payroll that was projected to be around $75 million. The Rays wanted payroll to be lower than last year’s $70 million mark, so this should bring them to a level they’re comfortable with. We’ll see if they even have enough left to dip into the still deep pool of free agents for another addition. For the most part, though, it seems like we now finally know what the 2018 Rays are going to look like.