Evan Longoria was the face of the Tampa Bay Rays organization for a decade before being traded to the San Francisco Giants in December, but he’s kept a close eye on his former organization even as he’s had to adjust to a new city and a new league.
Kevin Kiermaier is entering the second year of a six-year, $53.5 million contract with the Rays and figures to be one of the club’s cornerstone players for years to come.
In the two days since the Rays traded right-handed pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Minnesota Twins for a low-level minor-leaguer and parted ways with 2017 All-Star Corey Dickerson, both players sounded off on the direction the club is taking – slashing payroll in an attempt to build more for the future than the present.
“It’s really hard to come into a clubhouse and to win when you give away your best players,” Longoria told reporters Sunday in Scottsdale, Ariz.
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“I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves, no beating around the bush,” Kiermaier told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday in Port Charlotte as the team held its first full-squad workout of the spring.
Welcome to the 2018 season, Rays fans.
Tampa Bay hasn’t had a winning season since 2013, and a fifth straight sub.-500 campaign seems inevitable after losing Longoria, Odorizzi, Dickerson, Alex Cobb and Logan Morrison – among others – during the offseason.
Dumping Dickerson – the 28-year-old was designated for assignment on Saturday despite hitting 27 home runs last season and earning a spot on the American League All-Star team – and his $5.95 million salary for 2018 drew the most attention.
Staff ace Chris Archer, another player who potentially could be traded as the Rays look to rebuild, called the move “perplexing.”
Kiermaier said, “It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head.”
Then there’s this from Longoria: “Corey was our best player last year. He was better than me. Logan Morrison hit 38 home runs, but overall, Corey was our best player.
“It’s kind of a shame. 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. ... 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.”
Trading Odorozzi (10-8, 4.14 ERA in 2017, $6.3 million salary in 2018) had long been rumored during the offseason, and Archer said his presence on the mound and in the clubhouse will be missed.
“There is a level of certainty that Odi brought,’’ Archer said. “He’s a model of consistency and he’s an ultra-competitor. At times guys have to pitch through minor injuries and you knew Odi was going to take the ball if he was healthy and you could count on him to do his job.”