Things went from cold to a boiling over for Rays fans over the course of about 30 minutes Saturday night. The Rays acquired CJ Cron, designated Corey Dickerson for assignment, and traded Jake Odorizzi.
It’s here I’d like to apologize for the slow off season. Apparently all I needed to do was have planned family time with limited internet connectivity in order to light the flame of the hot stove season.
Initially my phone started going crazy when it was announced that the Rays acquired CJ Cron for a player to be named later.
This move is one that wasn’t that difficult to see as a possibility. The Angels have too many 1B/DH types and Cron wasn’t owed guaranteed money. One of the Rays biggest needs was a corner bat that hit from the right side. Even though Cron hasn’t hit left handers well (career 95 wRC+), he’s been an above-average bat that has put up a 107 wRC+ over almost 1500 career plate appearances.
It’s unlikely that Cron really has reverse splits, so this seems like a solid pickup in an area of need for the Rays. It’s impossible to know how great a pickup this is, but if it’s for a marginal prospect as most PTBNL are, then it’s a worthwhile acquisition.
The corresponding move to make room for Cron on the 40 man roster was DFAing Corey Dickerson. The initial reaction was absolute shock.
We know there is no such thing as an untouchable for the Tampa Bay Rays after the heart-breaking trade of Evan Longoria in December, but the way this was announced as a DFA was a punch to the gut.
Until this transaction is completed, there isn’t a way to logically evaluate it at this time. But of the batch of recent moves, this is the one that just doesn’t make sense. Why would the Rays sacrifice leverage? They now have a limit on the time they can trade Dickerson before he is open game for any team in the league to submit a bid on. Surely they are in a worse trade position now, having started the seven day DFA clock, than before in their attempts to close a deal.
While still in shock over the Dickerson DFA, it was announced that Jake Odorizzi was traded to the Minnesota Twins. It would take having no contact to the outside world to not expect this kind of move.
The return was a little surprising in that it was a one-for-one deal for SS Jermaine Palacios. In a series I was able to watch in early May between the Cedar Rapid Kernels and the Bowling Green Hot Rods, Palacios stuck out as the best player on the field. He made some slick defensive plays at short and was consistently making solid contact.
The return seems a little light as even the public prospect evaluators who like him have him in the teens of an average farm system. John Sickels of minorleagueball had him rated as the Twins #17 prospect and Baseball Prospectus had him in the 11-20 range.
The Rays have gone with their scouts in getting Christian Arroyo and Palacios this winter, and by not going with the public evaluators. Let’s hope they are right.
Overall the moves are hard to evaluate right now as a group. They brought in the bat to replace Dickerson in the lineup, but until you know what the Rays gave up for Cron and what the Rays can get for Dickerson we’re waiting for more information.
What can the Rays expect for Dickerson?
According to GM Erik Neander the Rays DFA’d Dickerson to force a time table on trade talks to wind down.
Sounds like #Rays don't have a deal in hand for Dickerson, but did the DFA move to spur conclusion of some trade talks. Neander: "We've had enough conversations where we felt this was best way to get things resolved for him and for us.''— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) February 18, 2018
This is the first time I’ve really been stumped by a move the Rays front office has made in a long time. I might not always agree on targets in trades or free agent signings, but there has been a sound line of reasoning why it can work.
This one is just hard to wrap my head around. The Rays have an interest in getting things settled before we really get into spring training. The slowness of the off-season has forced these kinds of moves to the beginning of spring training and you don’t want it to happen a week before the season begins if this was part of the plan.
The problem is the type of player Dickerson is: It’s not a profile that typically brings a meaningful return. An offense-first corner outfield bat that has been above-average-but-not-great.
A left handed batter who should probably be platooned just isn’t an asset that is in high demand.
What’s interesting, though, is that we’ve seen a couple off season trades of bats similar to Dickerson.
Left Handed Bat First Corner Outfielders Two Years Before Trade
In December 2014, the Rays traded Matt Joyce for reliever Kevin Jepsen. Matt Joyce was in his last year of arbitration and was expected to get roughly $5MM. Kevin Jepsen was a neat middle reliever coming off a solid year that was expected to get around $3MM in arbitration with one additional year of team control.
Last January, we might have seen the situation most similar to the Rays with Corey Dickerson in Seattle with Seth Smith. The Mariners picked up Smith’s $7MM option. By the time the calendar flipped the Mariners had too many outfielders, and there wasn’t a market for Smith. His contract was guaranteed whereas Dickerson’s isn’t since his is just an agreement to avoid arbitration.
The Mariners ultimately ended up trading Seth Smith ($7MM) for Yovani Gallardo ($11MM) after the Baltimore Orioles picked up $2MM owed to Gallardo. So to get rid of Smith they picked up an expensive back-end starter.
Even though Dickerson posted marginally worse offensive numbers, there is reason to believe he’s been the most valuable in years heading into their trades.
There is a big difference in plate appearances between the group. All three batters received 800-900 plate appearances against right handed pitchers, so the playing time difference is entirely based on platooning rather than health.
Not having to be platooned is a big deal, but in this case, it really depends how much you believe Dickerson is a guy who doesn’t need to be platooned. Over the two years with the Rays he has put up a 95 wRC+ over 278 plate appearances against lefties. That’s well above average for LvL, but it’s also a spot in the lineup you will be looking to improve from an offense-first player.
Over his five years in the majors, Dickerson has put up the following wRC+ against left-handed pitchers: 46, 86, 66, 60, and 117. He has a 86 wRC+ against lefties for his career. This past year’s 117 wRC+ is the only time you are really happy to put him in the lineup against southpaws. If you believe those 165 plate appearances are meaningful enough to make him a guy you don’t have to platoon, that would be a big difference in trade valuation.
For the most part, these are platoon bats that have brought similar offensive value heading into their trades. The last two times trades like this happened it was just shuffling around MLB pieces.
Dickerson does have one year of arbitration remaining, but if this year’s free agent market is any indication it’s probable he’s a non-tender candidate. This year teams can still go out and sign Carlos Gonzalez or Seth Smith if this is the type of bat they are pining after.
If the plan all along was to trade Dickerson, I’m not sure what more they could have expected. Now they are forcing teams to put up their best offer and rip off the band-aid, versus having Dickerson in camp the next couple weeks until they make a deal eventually.
All along my contention has been Dickerson would be one of the least likely to be traded because his present day wins are worth more than they are on the trade market. Looks like the Rays feel differently. If you weren’t happy with the Odorizzi return, I’m not expecting you to be happy when the Dickerson transaction is finalized.