Rays Sell High on Corey Dickerson | The Process Report

Rays Sell High on Corey Dickerson

The Tampa Bay Rays have recently made a flurry of moves after a dull offseason became compressed of late. Evan Longoria was traded earlier for longterm salary relief, though this year will mostly see a clean offset with the arrival of Denard Span in that deal. Fringe top-100 prospect Christian Arroyo also came over, and he looks like he will be the everyday third baseman of the future, perhaps, as soon as next year. A couple of potential lotto ticket relievers also came over. It’s easy to see why folks were in an uproar about this, but considering we’re in year five or six of Longo’s decline and on the verge of him acquiring 10-and-5 rights this shouldn’t have been much of a surprise.

The Rays kicked off the more recent roster shuffling by trading for C.J. Cron formerly of the Los Angeles Angels. The player to be named later (or cash) has not been announced, yet, but this looks like a clear upgrade for the Rays who have long needed a right-handed bat to complement their lineup at first base and designated hitter. Shortly after the team created a 40-man roster slot by designating Corey Dickerson for assignment. This was curious, and something this author had not expected. A trade, sure, but the potential for getting nothing in return and having to pay Dickerson around one million dollars to not play there loomed large.

As it turned out, the team was able to reap a couple of useful players in return. Daniel Hudson and Tristan Gray aren’t the sexiest return, but the team filled a need in the bullpen for this year with a guy they have liked for some time and added a left-handed second baseman that could profile in a corner outfield spot if the bat continues to develop. The team got little worse in the here and now, while adding a guy they liked for tomorrow.

Both C.J. Cron and Corey Dickerson leave a lot to be desired when it comes to strikeouts (too many) and walks (too few). While Dickerson’s final line might look solid at first glance, digging in we see that a good deal of his performance looks inflated. Cron saw the opposite while running stronger exit velocities and higher launch angles. This looks like a classic sell-high on Dickerson as his boxscore numbers look much better than what he deserved, and vice-versa for Cron as a buy-low.

Ok, it’s one year when Corey Dickerson has ran a wRC+ of 116 in his career. Opening this up to look at the full Statcast era (the last three years) we can see that the league average line he deserved last year is very similar to what he has shown over the timeframe:

Including the last three years shows a batter that is absolutely right at the average. He’ll spend some time above that average, but also some time below. It is hard not to miss the period of over-performance early this past season, and it is the sole driver to the idea that the team sold high on the player. If the world values a guy as being 15% above average, while you can feel confident that he is much closer to that average level then that is the very definition of the term.

You can argue about whether Cron can fully replace Dickerson’s contributions or that Daniel Hudson and Tristan Gray is a strong enough return, I think that is the case, it is very difficult to argue that Corey Dickerson has deserved results better than an average batter. Considering he is, at best, an average defender at a non-premium position, smart folks can come away realizing that he is more like a 1-2 WAR player than the star that a team like the Rays needs so desperately. Maybe the team doesn’t have that player, but it was very unlikely that Dickerson would turn into what they need him to be. Factor in that if he wasn’t traded this year then next year would almost be a sure bet, while running face first into the best free agent class in some time, and it is very easy to justify the position the Rays took on this matter.

You can quibble about whether the Rays got enough for Jake Odorizzi, who I think had little value or whether the Rays were truly wowed by the return for Steven Souza, a much better player both offensively and defensively than Dickerson, but it is hard to castigate the team for selling high on Corey Dickerson. The team has done well to turn superfluous pieces like Odorizzi and Dickerson into useful future players provided they continue to develop. You can hate trading better players like Longoria and Souza, but the return seems commensurate with those player’s worth considering future obligations. Payroll has shifted, talent-level has oscillated, but the team looks about as well-positioned as they did coming into this winter, while adding a plethora of prospects and some current talent.

 



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