Phillies

Phillies free-agent target: Corey Dickerson

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Phillies free-agent target: Corey Dickerson

Leading up to baseball’s winter meetings, we will take a daily look at some of the game’s top free agents and how they could potentially impact the Phillies.

Today, we check in on outfielder Corey Dickerson, who made a positive impact in a brief stay with the Phillies in 2019.

The vitals

The Phillies were criticized for not doing enough to upgrade their pitching at last summer’s trade deadline, but they did make a difference-making lineup acquisition when they acquired Dickerson in a cash deal from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dickerson played in 34 games for the Phillies and belted eight homers and drove in 34 runs. He suffered a broken foot in September and the Phillies really missed his bat down the stretch.

The lefty-swinging Dickerson turns 31 in May. He is one of those proverbial “professional hitters.”  He sports a career batting average of .286 and an OPS of .832. He’s made an All-Star team, won a Gold Glove and hit .300 three times.

Why he fits

Dickerson is a high-character, team-first guy who was well liked and much respected in the Phillies’ clubhouse last season. He can hit — he crushes right-handed pitching — and his bat would be a nice addition to the roster.

Why he doesn’t fit

Dickerson proved valuable in left field for the Phillies in the second half of 2019. However, he lacks positional versatility and is limited to just the corner outfield spots. With left fielder Andrew McCutchen set to return from knee surgery and Bryce Harper locked in in right field, there really isn’t a spot for Dickerson to get regular reps. It is not clear what the Phillies will do in center field in 2020. They have a number of options. If one of them includes giving McCutchen some time there they could more seriously consider a reunion with Dickerson, but that seems to be a decision that will come down the road, after other options have been exhausted, and Dickerson could be elsewhere by then.

Jay Bruce's return further complicates a potential reunion with Dickerson. The Phillies aren’t paying Bruce much — they took on just $2.75 million of his remaining $21 million last season — and he’s also a lefty bat who plays only the corners.

The price tag

Dickerson signed a one-year, $8.5 million contract with the Pirates last year. The first-time free agent could be looking at a two-year deal in the neighborhood of $15 million.

Scout’s take

“After Tampa Bay DFA’d him (in February 2018), he went to Pittsburgh and made some good adjustments, especially on getting to high fastballs, and that’s made him a more well-rounded hitter. He really produced in a short time in Philly, but with McCutchen and Harper there, where’s he going to play? He’s more than a bench bat. He’ll be somewhere.”

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Phillies look to Red Sox for their new athletic trainer Paul Buchheit

Phillies look to Red Sox for their new athletic trainer Paul Buchheit

SAN DIEGO — Nothing official from the Phillies yet, but the team has apparently hired a new head athletic trainer.

According to multiple baseball sources, the Phils have hired Paul Buchheit for the position. Buchheit was most recently an assistant athletic trainer on the staff of the Boston Red Sox.

Buchheit replaces Scott Sheridan, who became the Phillies’ head athletic trainer in October 2006. Sheridan’s contract was not renewed after last season. General manager Matt Klentak declined to talk about specific reasons for the change last month.

Sheridan served on the National League’s athletic training staff for the All-Star Game in July. He was instrumental in helping Chase Utley continue his career after the second baseman developed serious knee issues earlier this decade (see story).

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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Phillies officials head to winter meetings looking for an infield bat

Phillies officials head to winter meetings looking for an infield bat

SAN DIEGO — Baseball’s winter meetings are back in this seaside Southern California city for the first time in five years.

The San Diego meetings of 2014 were watershed times for the Phillies as the club traded its iconic shortstop and all-time hits leader, Jimmy Rollins, to the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

The deal brought the Phillies a pair of young pitchers, including Zach Eflin, and signaled the start of a rebuild as club officials conceded that the window of contention that had brought the Phillies five NL East titles and a World Series championship from 2007-2011 had officially closed.

Now, Phillies officials find themselves back in San Diego at another important time in franchise history. The rebuild ended when the team started lavishing big money on Jake Arrieta, Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper and giving up valuable prospects for J.T. Realmuto. Still missing, however, is a winning season. The Phils have not had one of those since 2011, the last year they made the playoffs. Ownership attached huge importance to the coming 2020 season when it pushed to have Gabe Kapler removed as manager after just two seasons in October and general manager Matt Klentak doubled down when he announced proven winner Joe Girardi as the new skipper and punctuated the announcement by saying, “No questions asked, it’s time to win right now.”

The urgency to win now showed last week when the club spent $118 million to sign starting pitcher Zack Wheeler. The hard-throwing right-hander has dealt with injury and inconsistency in his career, but his huge potential, coupled with the team’s acute need for pitching, made this a risk the Phils had to take. The Wheeler signing is expected to be announced as official as soon as Monday at the winter meetings.

So, what else will the team look to accomplish this week in San Diego?

Well, with Wheeler in the fold, the Phils have now prioritized adding an infield bat. That became imperative when the club cut ties with second baseman Cesar Hernandez and third baseman Maikel Franco last week.

The Phils’ ideal scenario would be to acquire a shortstop such as free agent Didi Gregorius. In that case, Jean Segura, whose dwindling range was a concern at shortstop last season, could move to second base and Scott Kingery could play third base. There could also be a scenario where Segura played third and Kingery second. The Phils had probed the market for third basemen and, according to sources, had seriously pursued Mike Moustakas before he signed with Cincinnati. The Phils are still monitoring the markets for free-agent third basemen Josh Donaldson and Anthony Rendon, but don’t get too excited because they appear to be more interested bystanders than active pursuers. Signing a shortstop like Gregorius, who just so happens to be a favorite of Girardi, would keep third base in play for the eventual arrival of prospect Alec Bohm, who will start the 2020 season in Triple A. Some rival evaluators do not believe that Bohm can survive defensively at third base in the majors — they see him as more of a first baseman — but Phillies officials remain convinced that he can do it. Time will tell.

There is competition for Gregorius. If the Phillies don't sign him, they look at Starlin Castro, Todd Frazier or Brock Holt as short-term fits at third base or other infield spots.

Even with Wheeler on board, the Phillies will continue to look for more pitching, though any further additions will probably come from the third and fourth tiers of the market. The Phils are speeding toward the $208 million luxury tax threshold and Wheeler, by all indications, will be their top wintertime expenditure. By most payroll estimates, the Phils are about $19 million under the tax, and that’s before adding an infielder, bullpen help and some rotation depth behind Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Arrieta and Eflin. Managing partner John Middleton is on record as saying he would not go over the tax for a marginal upgrade but would be open to it if the team was “fighting for a World Series,” and the upgrades were difference-makers like “Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.”

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