Should the Pittsburgh Pirates look to reach a contract extension with one of their top position players?
Entering the offseason the Pittsburgh Pirates, like every team in baseball, had a list of needs. The team was, and still is, looking for a new shortstop. They needed a right fielder until Gregory Polanco gets healthy and a left-handed bat bench, and the team filled both of these needs by signing Lonnie Chisenhall to a one-year contract. Neal Huntington and company also remain in the market for left-handed bullpen help, even after signing Tyler Lyons to a minor league contract.
Another question entering the offseason was rather or not the Pittsburgh Pirates should explore a contract extension with Corey Dickerson. On Friday, the Pirates and Dickerson agreed to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. However, he remains on track to hit free agency following the 2019 season.
After the team traded Austin Meadows to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of last July’s Chris Archer trade, signing a contract extension with Dickerson appeared to become important. It was even reported that there was mutual interest between the two sides in an extension. That extension, however, has yet to happen.
The 29-year-old Dickerson is coming off arguably the best season of his career and is in the prime of his career. While Dickerson failed to reach 20 home runs for the first time since 2015 last season, he still slashed .300/.330/.472 with a .341 wOBA and a 115 wRC+. Dickerson’s 15.0% strikeout rate was a new career low, and his .175 ISO was still above league average.
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One of the reason’s 2018 was arguably the best of Dickerson’s career was his defense. After being known as a defensive liability for much of his career, Dickerson won the National League Gold Glove for left fielders. His strong defense contributed to his 2.7 fWAR. Outside of a 2.8 fWAR in 2014, Dickerson had more value as a player in 2018 than in any other season of his MLB career.
Another factor in a potential Dickerson extension is what the Pirates have waiting in the pipeline. The team’s top outfield prospect is last year’s first round draft pick – Travis Swaggerty.
Swaggerty will likely start 2019 at Low-A, but, due to being an advanced college hitter, he has an opportunity to climb through the minors quickly. Reaching the Majors by 2021 is a real possibility for Swaggerty.
Between the MLB level and Swaggerty there are Jason Martin and Bryan Reynolds. There are questions about Martin’s ability to hit left-handed pitching enough to play every day, and Reynolds projects as more of a fourth outfielder.
Due to all of these factors, trying to reach an extension with Dickerson remains a smart idea for the Pirates. Signing Dickerson to a three-year contract, replacing his arbitration contract for 2019, worth somewhere in the ballpark of $36-40 million would be a more than fair contract for Dickerson while also representing the value he brings.
A combination of strong offense and defense led to Corey Dickerson quickly becoming a fan favorite during his first year in Pittsburgh. This combination also made him one of the team’s best players. Now, the team needs to make sure this marriage lasts longer than two seasons and sign Dickerson to a contract extension.