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Rays designate OF Corey Dickerson for assignment, the Diamondbacks should inquire about getting him

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The Rays made a stunning move last night, designating one of their more productive players for assignment after swinging a trade earlier that day.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees
It’s not every day an All Star OF suddenly becomes available.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays made a couple significant moves, dealing away pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Minnesota Twins and trading for Los Angeles Angels 1B C.J. Cron. For the Cron move, the Rays opened up a 40-man roster by designating outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment. Dickerson was scheduled to earn $5.95M after defeating the Rays in arbitration and is under team control through the 2019 season. Given that he has two seasons of control at a reasonable cost and can play in the outfield, the chances of the Diamondbacks being able to claim him on waivers is almost zero considering they’re 25th on the waiver priority, the only realistic way the Diamondbacks can acquire the soon-to-be 29-year-old outfielder is through a trade.

The Diamondbacks should pounce on the opportunity now that Dickerson has suddenly become a trade target, who has always hit well in his pro career. Dickerson offers left-handed power although that comes with a high strikeout, low walk negative. Over his career, he’s produced a 116 wRC+ which is better than what Jake Lamb has produced the last two seasons and David Peralta his entire career. Against lefties, he has a career 86 wRC+ although his power numbers along with his walks to strikeout ratios suffer a significant drop as expected. Part of that production is held up by a 119 mark in 2017, which was buoyed by a .405 BABIP that overcame a 43/6 K/BB ratio. So it’s hard to tell if he’s overdue for possible regression against lefties and he’ll back to having a bad platoon split or if he made adjustments at the plate that allow him to hit lefties better.

Defensively he’s consistently graded as below average, but not alarmingly bad. The big knock on his defensive scores comes from his arm, which in his career has graded 8 runs below average. He has very limited exposure to both CF and RF, with a grand total of 227 innings at those two positions vs. 2807 in LF. Due to the very limited sample size in CF and RF, defensive metrics can’t exactly peg the quality of a defender he is at the position. If he came to Arizona, they would most likely have him play LF since that’s the position he’s started 327 times out of 391 career starts in the outfield. His sprint speed graded out at 28.0 in 2017, which suggests he has enough speed to play outfield in Chase’s large dimensions at a reasonable enough level to keep his bat in the lineup.

Overall, this could be one pathway to improving the team’s outfield situation. Dickerson is controllable for 2018 and 2019, which I project him to contribute 4-6 WAR over that span. Over that time, he’s likely to earn around $14-16M in arbitration. Earlier this offseason, the Marlins traded 2 years of Marcell Ozuna for 2 highly regarded prospects, a mid-tier prospect, and a throw-in. Ozuna will provide much more surplus value in his final 2 years than Dickerson, so the price will be much lower.

Other players who were traded with 4 years of service time and only 2 years of future control in recent history that come to mind are Todd Frazier, Yonder Alonso, Jed Lowrie, and Jean Segura. Unfortunately for comparisons, none of those guys are outfielders. In all cases, there are varying levels on the return. The Reds picked up an outfield prospect in Scott Schebler, an infield prospect in Brandon Dixon, and a controllable infielder in Jose Peraza for Frazier although it was ultimately a 3-team deal involving the Dodgers as well and the White Sox ended up sending pitching prospect Frankie Montas to the Dodgers. Alonso picked up two throw-in prospects in reliever Jose Torres and outfielder Jabari Blash in addition to controllable pitcher Drew Pomeranz. Jed Lowrie netted the Astros a 1B prospect in Chris Carter, a pitching prospect in Brad Peacock, and a throw-in catcher in Max Stassi. Jean Segura netted the Diamondbacks a controllable pitcher in Taijuan Walker and a controllable infielder in Ketel Marte although that trade included sending OF prospect Mitch Haniger to Seattle. So how can we use these four previous trades to estimate the price for acquiring Dickerson?

Dickerson has put up 8.8 WAR to this point with his 2017 total at 2.7 and his career best being 3.4 back in 2014. Frazier was coming off a 5 and a 4 WAR season, Alonso was on a string of 1.2-1.5 WAR seasons and has less career WAR than Dickerson, Lowrie’s trade value was diminished by injuries although he was coming off of a 2.2 WAR season, and Jean Segura was coming out of a breakout season in which he put up 5.6 WAR after only amounting to 4.8 WAR in Milwaukee. So Dickerson’s value is higher than Alonso and Lowrie, but less than Segura and Frazier. That likely means the Diamondbacks would have to part with a Top 10 prospect or controllable talent to land. Controllable talent is probably out of the equation for the Diamondbacks, with Brandon Drury likely starting at 2B and Jake Lamb at 3B this year.

Since the trade would involve dealing from prospects, the Diamondbacks are likely dealing with having to send a Top 10 prospect with a B- grade. In this trade, I’m absolutely against moving Jon Duplantier, Daulton Varsho, Taylor Clarke, and Pavin Smith for 2 years of a controllable player because those guys are part of the future core. The headlining piece was a talent that was also less than a year away from the majors. Two prospects fit that bill with pitching prospect Anthony Banda and infielder prospect Domingo Leyba. I don’t see the Diamondbacks dealing from their starting pitching depth with Patrick Corbin set to hit free agency and also given the likely injuries that will affect the starting staff with Banda as the first man up. So in order to bridge that gap, the Diamondbacks should send another mid-tier prospect and possibly a lottery ticket prospect. So on top of Domingo Leyba, the return could possibly include out of options OF Socrates Brito as the lottery ticket prospect and LHP Cody Reed as the mid-tier prospect.