Last Sunday, the Tampa Rays stunned a huge swath of the baseball world by DFA’ing OF Corey Dickerson. The Rays are taking Bob Nutting’s coupon clipping this offseason and amplifying it up to 11, as they’ve managed to trade away franchise icon Evan Longoria ($13.7M out to a 2023 option), SP Jake Odorizzi ($6.3M, controlled through 2019), OF Steven Souza ($3.5M, controlled through 2020), and now OF Corey Dickerson ($5.95M, controlled through 2019), all because they were getting too pricey for the uber-thrifty Rays. On Sunday, I put this tweet out:
— The Point of Pgh (@thepointofpgh) February 18, 2018
We foresaw the Rays’ fire sale back in December as part of our cheerful Taking Advantage Of…series of various teams that were going to be potentially moving salary this offseason for different reasons. One of the players we targeted specifically was Corey Dickerson.
The Pirates have now replicated Andrew McCutchen’s homers that departed with Dickerson’s. Both of the players will contribute high 20’s of dingers in 2018. But unlike McCutchen, the Pirates still control Dickerson for the 2019 season, as well, at a much lower overall price. Dickerson is making $5.9M in 2018 and will probably be around $9M next year through arbitration. In essence, the Pirates are getting two seasons of Dickerson’s cost for the price of McCutchen’s $14.5M this year.
Dickerson is not here for his defensive chops. There’s no way I foresee the Pirates letting him patrol the expansive LF at PNC Park, so that will necessitate moving Polanco from RF to LF, which probably brings its own inherent miscues, too. Much like Roddy Piper in They Live, Dickerson is here to hit dingers and kick ass.
Going the other way in the trade is, perhaps, even more amazing. The Pirates offloaded RP Daniel Hudson and his $5.5M 2018 salary (they’re retaining $1M), along with 2B prospect Tristan Gray (SSL 50). By all accounts, Daniel Hudson was a great teammate, but it was a rough watch at times last year with him. He appeared to lose all confidence and was going to be probably no more than the second choice of a 7th inning option — the guy who pitches when the Pirates are losing. To trade a distressed asset in Hudson for a productive one in Dickerson is pretty masterful.
This is probably a good time to point a few things out:
- The Pirates still basically made this a net-neutral deal in terms of payroll, so they’re apparently content with rolling into 2018 with a sub-$90M payroll.
- They still haven’t signed a free agent to a Major League deal. They’re now the only MLB team to do that this offseason.
- I still disagree with how they’ve handled this offseason.
I wonder if the Pirates knew in January what they knew now if they still would have traded Gerrit Cole. Sure, the Pirates played Offseason Bingo with the Astros deal and got a ‘cover all’ by getting their starting 3B (Moran), a setup guy (Feliz), and a starting pitcher (Musgrove), but what if they didn’t? They could have had a fairly solid rotation again, still traded McCutchen to move his $14.5M, picked up Kyle Crick in the McCutchen trade to be a 7th inning guy, then signed Todd Frazier to play 3B. Would that have been better? I think it would have. They could have made this Dickerson deal and rolled in with a team more conducive to challenging for a wild card.
Here’s how I would set a possible batting order and positional lineup for Opening Day:
- Starling Marte (R) CF
- Francisco Cervelli (R) C
- Josh Harrison (R) 2B
- Josh Bell (S) 1B
- Corey Dickerson (L) RF
- Gregory Polanco (L) LF
- Jordy Mercer (R) SS
- Colin Moran (L) 3B
Yes, I like Cervelli and his ability to get on-base in the 2nd spot. Do I think it’s going to happen? No. Most likely, Polanco and Cervelli will be flipped, but give me my moment, please.
The potential bench composition still has me scratching my head, though. I think another move is coming to trade away a guy, hence the non-stop LF carousel of pickups they’ve employed this week.
- Elias Diaz — C
- Adam Frazier — can cover 2B/3B/both corner OF spots
- David Freese — 3B/1B
- Sean Rodriguez — anywhere except C, maybe, I guess
- Max Moroff — 2B/SS in a pinch
This move probably sealed Jordan Luplow and Jose Osuna’s fate to AAA, where they’ll wait for an injury, which I’m fine with. But do the Pirates move Sean Rodriguez (a favorite in the locker room and of Clint Hurdle’s) to free up a space for Bryce Brentz/Daniel Nava/Michael Saunders? It wouldn’t shock me to see either Sean Rodriguez or David ‘The Truth Shall Set You Free’ Freese head out of town.
But for now, let’s all sit back and be amazed that Neal Huntington made a trade that is pretty much universally liked by Pirates fans and media. That’s like finding a unicorn these days.