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Don’t Print The Playoff Tickets Just Yet, But The Corey Dickerson Trade Was Great

Corey Dickerson will solidify the outfield and provide some much-needed power.
Photo by Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Times

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:

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:

  1. Starling Marte (R) CF
  2. Francisco Cervelli (R) C
  3. Josh Harrison (R) 2B
  4. Josh Bell (S) 1B
  5. Corey Dickerson (L) RF
  6. Gregory Polanco (L) LF
  7. Jordy Mercer (R) SS
  8. 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.

Nerd engineer by day, nerd writer at night. Kevin is the co-founder of The Point of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Creating Christ, a sci-fi novel available on Amazon.

16 Comments on Don’t Print The Playoff Tickets Just Yet, But The Corey Dickerson Trade Was Great

  1. Bingo. I definitely think the Pirates will try to move both S-Rod and Freese, even if they have to eat some cash to do it. They’re going younger and those guys aren’t. I think Nava and Moroff will both make the opening day squad, assuming that Nava’s back flare up is a minor thing.

    • “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.”

      Thanks for pointing that out, Kevin.

      • You’ve already beaten this horse to death. Is your ego so fragile that you need me to say, yes Jim, you were right and I was wrong? If that’s all you need to get you through your day, here goes. JIM, YOU WERE RIGHT, I WAS WRONG.

        • I’ll leave it alone, Bob. You’re right in that I’ve taken it much further than such a trivial thing deserves. Apologies to you.

    • Of course, once the Pirates jump into the trash heap to scour the remains of free agents all other teams passed on, the Pirates may join ALL OTHER teams in mlb and actually sign one.

      Then at least Bob can save some face for being so, so, so wrong when he declared in October that the Pirates would make a free agency splash this offseason. Yea…the t.v. deal…..


  2. Does it matter? How many more wins does he give you than Frazier/Saunders/Nava, 1-2; I like Frazier better myself. So now it’s a 71-2 win team. Meh.

    • Kevin Creagh // February 22, 2018 at 7:06 PM // Reply

      Frazier is not a full time starter. Dickerson has far more power, a commodity sorely lacking.

    • Mark….I like the deal….but bottom line, this team is going nowhere. Instead of losing 97 games this year, now maybe 94? This is just zero sum payroll window dressing.

  3. This may be nuts, but I had same thought with the OF shuffle last season. Should they keep Marte in LF and make Polanco the CF? Polanco was a CF almost his entire MiLB career. Marte is average defensively in CF but probably best LF in baseball. Polanco probably CF in event of injury or day off for Marte. Way not just make it an everyday thing? He was not good in LF the short time he was there last season.

    • Kevin Creagh // February 22, 2018 at 9:29 PM // Reply

      The Pirates really seem committed to Marte in CF and seem to have lost faith in Polanco’s fielding, in general. Prior to getting Dickerson, they wanted Polanco in the small confines of RF at PNC Park.

      • That is true, but Polanco drives me crazy as a right fielder. After two years of playing mostly right field at PNC, he still hasn’t figured out the caroms off of the Clemente Wall. Runners routinely get an extra base on balls hit off of the wall out there. At least in CF the only caroms he has to worry about are in the little notch by the bullpen opening. Those caroms are totally unpredictable because they usually come off of a ball that bounces and goes in there and spin then comes into play on which way the ball will carom out or just die in there.

    • I agree that the best defensive alignment, at least for games at PNC, has Marte in left and Polanco in Center with Dickerson in right. That being said, on the road, it would depend on the park. I don’t expect the Pirates will lock themselves in to saying what each outfielder’s role will be on an everyday basis. C.H. has always liked playing mix and match with his lineups, so this gives him more flexibility to drive fans crazy with his wacky daily lineup changes and his insistence on days off for everybody.

  4. I was never sure why they brought Srod back last year other than it gives Hurdle a daily opportunity to out think himself. Srod and Freese look more like deadline trades to me. Contender’s needing injury help for the playoffs. Looks like AAA for Moroff , Luplow and Osuna

  5. I Liked the deal who doesn’t Now get rid of S Rod and Freese so the have Bryce Brentz Moroff Diaz Nava Iwould have liked to keep Michael Saunders over Nava and why didn’t they trade Saunders instead of giving him away?

    • Kevin Creagh // February 25, 2018 at 6:41 PM // Reply

      It’s a practice of good faith to release a veteran minor league free agent if he has an opportunity elsewhere. It earns you preferential points w agents in the future. There was no real, tangible market for Saunders.

    • Saunders was signed to a minor league contract with an invite to the major league camp, and with a gentleman’s understanding that he would be given a chance to start at a corner outfield spot. When the Pirates traded for Dickerson, they weren’t going to be able to keep their gentleman’s agreement with Saunders, so when he asked for his release, they gave it to him, because he had an offer to compete for a starting job with the Royals. I think it’s a class move by the Pirates and I think Nava as a part time player and left-handed bat off the bench is a very good option. For reasons that I set forth in great detail in todays POP segment, I think the Pirates may and should trade both S-Rod and Freese before the start of the season, even if it means eating a little bit of their salaries. Neither is signed beyond this year.

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