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Tampa Bay Rays trade veterans, fully enter rebuild

What the hell just happened?

Tampa Bay Rays v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays have traded their No. 2 starter and their the second most productive Designated Hitter of 2017. Jake Odorizzi and Corey Dickerson are gone. We all have questions and not a lot of answers.

Perhaps you’re like me, on a bachelor party in Tallahassee. You’ve just finished many beers around a bonfire, and turned to your phone in suprise at the end of a raucous evening. Maybe it’s daylight where you are, you missed the news while out watching Black Panther. It doesn’t matter, the question is the same:

What the hell just happened?

The Rays have made three transactions in total:

  • Tampa Bay trades SP Jake Odorizzi to the Minnesota Twins for an unheralded prospect
  • Tampa Bay acquires 1B C.J. Cron from the Angels, possibly shifting INF Brad Miller to second base
  • Tampa Bay designates LF/DH Corey Dickerson for assignment, giving the club ten days to trade the player, or release him

Our first impression is that this is an immediate salary dump. In shedding Odorizzi and Dickerson, the Rays remove $12 million from the payroll, which was already climbing above 2017 levels due to the acquisition of veteran OF Denard Span.

The second impression is to realize that Denard Span - who is no longer a center fielder and will soak up $12 million in payroll himself - and Corey Dickerson are somewhat redundant on the Rays roster.

Yes, Corey Dickerson is a home run hitter, a productive and effective DH, a better defender than his reputation allows in left field, an All-Star, one of the more feared Rays bats on the roster, and an interesting Rays player.

But the Rays can cut Dickerson (who is going through salary arbitration) and they cannot cut Span (who is never touching CF again on this Rays roster and needs to play a LF/DH role). The Rays have Mallex Smith, and Jake Bauers on the way. Someone had to go, so the team has 10 days to trade or release Dickerson.

It’s a holy crap moment, but it’s acceptable, particularly when you note Dickerson’s 2017 split: 139 wRC+ in the first half, 80 wRC+ in the second half.

Let’s move along.

I mention Jake Bauers because the 1B/OF prospect will need a place to play eventually in 2018 and the Rays have now nabbed C.J. Cron. You can read all about C.J. Cron here, but the gist is that the Rays are betting on a long-sought-after, right handed, former first round draft pick who cost pennies on the dollar in comparison to Dickerson.

It’s ice cold, but it’s palatable if you only think about 2018 and beyond, and in this barren trade market (Cron was picked up for PTBNL as a change of scenery candidate), there’s a 20% chance you can deal Dickerson for something.

Then there’s Odorizzi.

All off-season you knew a trade was coming for Jake Odorizzi as his salary was reaching the final couple years of arbitration, and in this scenario the Rays went and got a young prospect you’ve never heard of before. Boy, that sure sounds like their M.O..

SS Jermaine Palacios is a 21 year old High-A prospect, reportedly slow on his feet but with incredible instincts on defense overall. Scouts are skeptical on his overall profile, assuming he’ll be a utility infielder, but it’s safe to say in a 1:1 swap the Rays are seeing more. Here’s what Baseball America had to say:

Palacios is an aggressive hitter with advanced barrel awareness and saw his power spike last year, hitting 13 longballs after never hitting more than three in a season. Palacios shows an all-fields approach and handles velocity fine, but rarely walks and has had to put in extra work to improve his pitch recognition. Most of his homers come on mistake breaking balls.

Defensively Palacios has above-average arm strength and moves better to his right, which gives him a chance to stay at shortstop as he climbs the ladder. An average runner at best, he lacks base-stealing instincts was successful on just 57 percent of his attempts last year [...]

Ranked among the Rays prospects now, he’s arguable in the 20-30 range given the uptick in power, but that will need to play out with some consistency to hold true.

I don’t know, this is a weird moment. The Rays front office put in some overtime to get all three of these deals done late on Saturday night and are taking what they can get in a rebuilding year. At the end of the day, although significant role players in 2016 and 2017, both Odorizzi and Dickerson are average major league players clogging up what should be an ultra-young roster in 2018.

Y’all, the Rays are rebuilding and they just shed $12 million in payroll in an off-season where nothing is happening for free agents or on the trade market.

Could we have asked for more?