Corey Dickerson Could Provide A Low Risk Move For The Pirates

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 10: Corey Dickerson
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 10: Corey Dickerson /

The Pittsburgh Pirates have an opening in their outfield, and Corey Dickerson, a 2017 All Star for the Tampa Bay Rays, got designated for assignment yesterday.  It could make a low risk move for the Pirates.

Yesterday, the Tampa Bay Rays acquired C.J. Cron from the Los Angeles Angels for a player to be named later.  To clear a spot for Cron, the club designated outfielder Corey Dickson, who they originally acquired from the Colorado Rockies prior to 2016, for assignment.  In his two years in St. Petersburg, the soon to be 29-year-old outfielder hit .265/.310/.480 with a .330 wOBA and 109 wRC+ and was 2.6 wins above a replacement player.  The Pirates are lacking in the power department, they finished 29th in slugging, isolated power, and home runs.  They could also use an outfielder, so Corey Dickerson seems like a natural fit.

However, there is a reason the Rays designated Dickerson for assignment.  He was set to make $5.9 million in 2018, now he is owed just 30 days of termination pay if the Rays aren’t able to trade him, and Cron is set to make just $2.3 million.  The projections for the two players are similar, Dickerson at .259/.309/.461 and Cron at .257/.311/.457, getting similar projected performance for a cheaper rate.  That might be the biggest reason, especially with the Rays objective being to clear payroll, but there are questions with how Dickerson’s bat will going forward.

Part of Dickerson’s problem is he’s a free swinger.  Last season, he walked just 5.6 percent of the time, struck out 24.2 percent, and had a swinging strike rate of 15.4 percent.  Non pitcher league average was 8.7 percent, 21.2 percent, and 10.4 percent respectively.  But the power is in there, he’s posted ISO’s over .200 since 2014, and in 2013 his ISO was .196.  There is a trade-off in terms of power and contact, but that’s not necessarily all of Dickerson’s problem.

Dickerson swings at almost everything.  Over the last three seasons he has an o-swing percentage (swings at pitches outside of the zone/pitches outside of the zone) of 41.7 percent, 44.0 percent, and 45.6 percent when the non pitcher league average has been 30.6, 30.2, and 29.8 in that time frame.  Of the 232 qualified hitters since 2015, only Adam Jones (45.1 percent) and Salvador Perez (44.9 percent) have swung at more pitches out of the zone.  The high swing and miss rate combined with the high swing rate is part of the reason Dickerson from a 139 wRC+ in the first half of 2017 to a wRC+ of 80 in the second half.  His xStats, which uses data from Statcast, had Dickerson’s expected production at .264/.308/.460.

However, despite all these negatives with Dickerson, he would still be a safe bet for the Pirates.  He won’t move the needle on the projections, Depth Charts and PECOTA both have the club with 77 wins, but he would provide the Pirates with an interesting player.

His xStats projection is .261/.298/.469, similar to the STEAMER projection.  That would provide the Pirates with an outfielder who has power.  He comes with baggage, but that type of player should intrigue the Pirates.  At the worst, he is a one win player, which would be a role player, but at best the Pirates get a power hitting left-handed hitting outfielder with two years of control.  If he has a strong first half, the club could try to flip him at the deadline, especially if the team is not in contention.

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They already made a trade for a DFA’d player this offseason, adding Dickerson would be more intriguing given his floor (one win player) and ceiling (four win player).  The swing and chase rates are a problem, but the power is real and the Pirates could use that.  There really is no risk here, and Neal Huntington and the Pirates should give Erik Neander and the Rays a call.

*Numbers from Fangraphs