Corey Dickerson has been one helluva pickup for the Phillies, probably the best in-season addition GM Matt Klentak has made the last two years.
The question is how long will the soon-to-be free agent be a Phillie?
Let’s rewind to last week. Had the Phils not blown that seven-run lead Friday night in Miami, the main talking point coming off of the road trip would have been the offense in general and Dickerson's heroics in particular.
Dickerson helped offset the loss of Bryce Harper to paternity leave by driving in seven runs in the first two games of the Marlins series. A game prior, Dickerson hit a two-run triple at Fenway.
The Phillies returned home this week and in Game 1 against the Pirates, Dickerson hit a two-run homer on a high-and-tight pitch that was not a strike. He’s become an even more well-rounded hitter by eliminating a previous susceptibility to high fastballs.
In Game 2 of the Pirates series, he doubled and scored the Phillies’ first run before driving in the second with a single.
In Game 3, he hit another homer.
In less than a month, Dickerson has made his presence felt, showing the Phillies how helpful his skill set can be. In 21 games, he has driven in 23 runs. He has 23 hits and 13 have gone for extra bases.
He does not go up to the plate looking to take to a full count or walk. He wants to swing and to drive the ball. He should keep doing so. Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper are so selective at the plate that it can pay dividends to have a more free-swinging slugger in the middle of the order. We saw it in June with Jay Bruce and have seen it in August with Dickerson, who is slugging .585 with the Phillies and .565 overall this season.
If you're the Phillies, you'd love to keep a 30-year-old player who can hit and may even be ascending. But can you?
The Phillies will enter 2020 with Harper, Andrew McCutchen and Bruce under contract. Roman Quinn (out of options) and Adam Haseley will still be under club control. Odubel Herrera and Nick Williams are on the periphery. Is there enough room in the outfield for Dickerson?
The tempting answer is that even if there is not enough room, the Phillies should still re-sign Dickerson because he's that good a hitter. He’s been one of the best in baseball this season against right-handed pitching, hitting .317 with a .616 slugging percentage.
Other teams see that. Other teams recognize that. Other teams will offer Dickerson an opportunity to play every day and do more than platoon.
Looking around the league at comparable hitters and recent contracts, Dickerson seems like a candidate for a two- or three-year deal in the vicinity of $12 million to 15 million per year. Similar to Daniel Murphy and D.J. LeMahieu last offseason. Maybe Dickerson gets more, depending on how the market moves. The difference in the contracts of Andrew McCutchen and Michael Brantley this past offseason illustrate that timing can be everything.
If Dickerson’s market does develop quickly — who doesn’t need a .290-hitting outfielder with power? — it could complicate things. Last offseason, the Phillies had to wait for months before they could acquire J.T. Realmuto and sign Harper. If they, for example, strongly pursue Anthony Rendon or Gerrit Cole this offseason, that could prevent them from striking an earlier deal with Dickerson or players in his tier.
One thing the Phillies should not do is let Bruce's contract status affect their decision-making with Dickerson. Yes, Bruce will be under contract for 2020 and yes, he can still have productive stretches, but he will also be 33 and coming off a season that involved two injuries that kept him off the field for the bulk of the summer. Bruce's ideal role next season would be the role the Phillies acquired him to play: power threat off the bench.
Haseley and Quinn have had their moments this season but neither has yet solidified himself as an everyday starter in the majors. It is not a knock on either player to say that Dickerson is simply better.
Dickerson’s value is increased by his ability to hit all over the batting order, as evidenced Wednesday. His pop and success with runners in scoring position make him an ideal middle-of-the-order bat but he can also lead off because of his contact skills and decent wheels.
He’s a pure hitter. He’d fit into any lineup. Unless the Phillies have their sights set on an even bigger fish to come in to help this offense, they should re-sign Dickerson to a two- or three-year deal. These guys don’t grow on trees.
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