Spring training has arrived in Major League Baseball but that doesn’t mean business is still happening behind closed doors. Hell, there’s still roughly 100 free agents available on the market as spring camp gets underway.
One name that has surfaced this weekend is outfielder Corey Dickerson. In a surprising move from the Tampa Bay Rays, the 2017 All-Star was designated for assignment after the team acquired first baseman C.J. Cron from the Los Angeles Angels.
So since becoming DFA’d, Dickerson is now temporarily without a job. But given the 28-year-old is coming off a very nice season, serving as the starting designated hitter for the American League in the mid-summer classic, it shouldn’t take too long before he finds a new home for the upcoming season.
The question now becomes, “should the Detroit Tigers give Dickerson a look?” Since they are first in line to put in a waiver claim for him (order starts with team who had worst record in same league as player’s team from which he was DFA’d), the Tigers may do their due diligence and throw their hat into the ring.
There’s certainly some positives to acquiring a player like Dickerson, and here are three such reasons.
Dickerson in 150 games last season with the Rays, splitting time between left field and DH, slashed .282/.325/.490, and that’s after hitting .241/.282/.408 post-All-Star break. He led the team with 166 hits, good for top-20 in the AL, while also clubbing 27 homers and driving in 62 runs.
Perhaps more importantly, most of his damage was done while hitting near the top of the lineup. More than 75 percent of his at-bats in 2017 were when he hit first or second in the batting order.
Bringing in Dickerson and plugging him into the leadoff spot gives the Tigers an instant threat to generate offense, much like they had with Ian Kinsler from 2014-17 (I know… I miss him too). Currently, the only real viable leadoff options Detroit has is center fielder Leonys Martín, who is by no means guaranteed an everyday role with the team after signing with the Tigers back in early December.
ANOTHER LEFTY OPTION
The Tigers for years have been a very right-handed-heavy hitting team for a number of years. This season, however, there is a little bit more lefty flavor into the projected lineup.
In addition to switch-hitters Victor Martinez and Jeimer Candelario, the aforementioned Leonys Martín hits from the left side. Well so does Dickerson, and he carries a lot of pop from that side, as we’ve highlighted already.
But it’s not just the fact that Dickerson hits lefty. He actually checks out as one of those “reverse splits” types of hitters. Dickerson in 2017 actually hit better against left-handed pitchers (.303 BA in 156 ABs) than he did against righties (.273 BA in 432 ABs). The .303 mark is not indicative of his career in those types of situations, but he still boasts a career .266 BA against southpaw pitchers in his five-plus seasons in the big leagues.
Dickerson also has the ability to spray the ball all over the field, as he has done so throughout his career. Check out this home run spray chart from last season.
Corey Dickerson's HR spray chart last season pic.twitter.com/iKvKbWNZJC
— Daren Willman (@darenw) February 18, 2018
Dickerson can play everyday and manager Ron Gardenhire would not have to worry about sitting him against lefties.
We have seen over the years in all sports that you can never have enough bodies to carry around throughout the season, and that is perhaps no more evident than in baseball. Bringing in Dickerson would give a Tigers outfield some level of stability. Because let’s be honest, there are some question marks.
The only real “safe” option right now is Mikie Mahtook, who, after bursting onto the scene last season, has earned himself a starting job in likely left field if the season started today. The other two positions, however, are going to be a major focal point if no other roster changes are made.
The Tigers will officially begin the “Nick Castellanos in right field” project, in what is sure to be one of the bigger storylines for Detroit this season. But barring some absolute nightmare transition for Castellanos, right field seems to be his for the long haul. The bigger question is in center field. There’s essentially three options in camp vying for the starting role(s): incumbent JaCoby Jones, Rule 5 Draft selection Victor Reyes, and the (again) aforementioned Leonys Martín.
So here is a hypothetical to ponder over: Tigers acquire Dickerson in a trade to play left field, slide Mahtook over to center field, bump Martín and Reyes to the bench and Jones to Triple-A Toledo. This gives Detroit an athletic and solid-hitting outfield trio, two versatile and viable bench options, and a year of grooming for Jones to continue working on his bat.
Oh, and Dickerson can ever DH if need be, whenever an aging and injury-riddled Victor Martinez needs time off. So there’s even more incentive to keep Dickerson’s bat in the lineup. Hell, some could argue that you make him the first-string DH right now and slide V-Mart to the bench. Possible? Sure. Likely? Doubt it.
It’s hard to gauge the level of interest the Tigers have in Dickerson at the moment. Contractually, he’s slated to make just under $6 million this season and has one more year of arbitration remaining, meaning he’s under contract through 2019. It’s important to note that teams interested have a 7-day window from the time Dickerson is DFA’d to put in a claim and (if multiple teams do so, perhaps subsequently) iron out a trade, or else he will be flat out released by the Rays.
He won’t turn 29 until this May. Given that and his very economical, multi-year commitment, it would be difficult to imagine the Rays just letting any team take him for nothing off waivers; acquiring his services would likely be done through trade.
Are the Tigers willing to trade off a prospect or two from a farm system they have been desperately trying to build up from within, in order to obtain an under-30 corner outfielder coming off an All-Star season? Perhaps general manager Al Avila should at least do his due diligence.