Perplexing Move by Tampa Bay Rays to DFA Dickerson

You can shake your head, scratch your head, roll your eyes and it still does not make any sense as to the reasoning behind the Tampa Bay Rays DFAing Corey Dickerson.

Following the directive from Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg in September, one of the offseason main objectives was that payroll absolutely had to be reduced for 2018. Going into the GM Meetings in November, the Rays used this time to gain insight as to what other teams were looking for in terms of a trade.

By the time the Winter Meetings arrived in early December, Tampa Bay Rays GM Erik Neander and Senior VP Chaim Bloom made it known that they would consider just about anything and everything, to reduce payroll which also would include trading pricey veterans if the right offer came about.

The Tampa Bay Rays also went into the Winter Meetings knowing that they had 13 arbitration eligible players and based on the projected salaries from mlbtraderumors.com, those players were projected to see their salary rise for 2018.

With Sternberg’s directive to reduce salary and the projected arbitration salaries the only way to see a significant reduction would come from trades and doing their due diligence in regards to what players would be tendered or non-tendered a contract for 2018.

Of the 13 arbitration eligible players, the Rays traded Brad Boxberger ($1.9 million), two were non-tendered Shawn Tolleson ($1.0 million) and Xavier Cedeno ($1.4 million) and Chase Whitley ($1.0) claimed off waivers. Projected reduction in salary from these three came to $5.3 million potentially off the books.

Two players, Adeiny Hechavarria and Jake Odorizzi declined the Tampa Bay Rays offer and headed to arbitration and the remaining seven players, Dan Jennings, Brad Miller, Jesus Sucre, Alex Colome, Matt Duffy and Corey Dickerson all agreed to the Rays offer for a one-year, non-guaranteed contract.

Therefore, let the Dickerson story begin… mlbtraderumors.com projected Dickerson at $6.4 million, the Rays offered $5.95 million and Dickerson agreed signing his one-year, non-guaranteed contract.

With Dickerson’s new salary, plus that of Brad Miller, Alex Colome, Jake Odorizzi and Adeiny Hechavarria (contingent of their arbitration hearing) along with the guaranteed contracts of Evan Longoria, and Wilson Ramos among others were all cost-prohibitive thus available for the right price.

Odorizzi, Colome, Archer and Longoria all were all involved in trade rumors throughout the offseason. The Rays eventually traded Longoria, while the rumors persisted for the others. In the meantime, despite making Dickerson available there were hardly any rumors and evidently no teams showed any significant interest.

So we fast-forward to spring training, Dickerson is in camp and the Rays are still shopping him and still, there are no takers. Nevertheless, the Rays figured the best way to speed up the process for a trade would be to DFA.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes that there were two reasons that Dickerson was DFAd – the first being that he was not in the Rays plans and secondly to possibly make a trade with the teams that had shown minimal interest.

The $64,000 dollar question here is if Dickerson, who was the Rays lone All-Star selection in 2017 was not in the Rays plans, which I would assume they had known for a while, then why on earth did they tender him a contract and eventually pay him $5.95 million when they could have parted ways with a non-tender.

“Obviously not a common move to do something like this, but we’ve had enough conversations that we felt this was the best way to get things resolved for him and for us,” Neander said. “With the conversations that are ongoing with Dickerson we felt this was the best way to go.”

By non-tendering him, it would have cost them nothing – now, they have to pay him 30-days termination pay of $1 million and the Rays still get nothing in return. They have essentially thrown that valuable money out the window.

Had they said their good-byes in December, the gut punch that the DFA move gave would not have been such a blow where current and former players are blasting the organization for this move.

Kevin Kiermaier added: “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it,” said Kiermaier.

Evan Longoria added: “It’s kind of a shame,” Longoria said. “I don’t understand it. The guy was an All-Star last year. He’s in his early prime. He’s still controllable. It just doesn’t make sense to me. It doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. Corey will end up somewhere and continue to be the player that he is. But I kind of just feel bad for the Rays’ fan base.

“And I feel bad for the guys this year who were probably counting on Corey to put up numbers to help the team win. I’m not going to take too many shots. But I think it’s pretty obvious that the guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFA’d.”

It is possible that if non-tendered, Dickerson likely could still be available in the free agent market, as evident by others that are still available including Lucas Duda and Logan Morrison, two players that the Rays let walk away.

Sure, you can read Rays GM Erik Neander’s main reasoning behind doing so, but they could have and should have cut ties with him in December. Enough said.