Looking back at the trade deadline six weeks out, what a lame deadline it was. Not just for the Phillies but for the league as a whole.
Sellers had sky-high prices on players with even a little bit of value — as Jim Salisbury illustrated with a head-scratching, new Phillies tidbit on this week's At the Yard podcast — and buyers were hesitant to trade prospects. The result was an underwhelming final week of July. A few big-name pitchers changed teams, but on the position player front, the only everyday guys traded were Corey Dickerson, Nicholas Castellanos, Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes.
Of that group, Dickerson and Castellanos have made by far the biggest impact. Dickerson entered Wednesday's game hitting .300 as a Phillie with more RBI (34) than games played (33) and a .386 batting average with runners in scoring position.
Castellanos entered the night hitting .335 with 14 homers and a 1.046 OPS as a Cub. He's hit just .185 with runners in scoring position with his new team but has made up for it with all the power. The Cubs are 20-17 with Castellanos in the lineup and likely would have faded in the wild-card picture without him.
Unfortunately for the Phillies, Dickerson left Wednesday's game with left foot soreness. They will sorely miss his bat if he has to miss more than a day or two.
Remember, again, that the Phillies gave up almost nothing to acquire Dickerson. They sent international bonus pool money to the Pirates and that was it. It's more than fair to criticize the Phillies' front office for not acquiring more pitching at the deadline, but the front office should also be credited for being the one that took advantage of the position the Pirates were in and pried Dickerson away for very little.
Dickerson was productive before he got to Philly but has taken his game to an even higher level here. He had hit .270 against lefties with a .708 OPS in his career before the trade. As a Phillie, he's hit .316 against lefties with three doubles and three homers. The production has been so good that his career OPS vs. lefties has risen 14 points in just over a month. It is a small sample size but not one that has involved a ton of luck. Dickerson has had high-quality at-bats against lefties, spoiling pitcher's pitches and ending them by getting the barrel to the ball. He has also fixed a weakness on up-and-in pitches.
The big-picture question, addressed here two weeks ago, is whether the Phillies can realistically re-sign Dickerson. As good as he's been here, it's not a straightforward decision because the Phillies will likely want to play Andrew McCutchen in left field next season. McCutchen will be coming off knee surgery and was better suited for the corner outfield even before tearing his ACL in San Diego in early June.
Dickerson would provide the Phillies insurance if McCutchen isn't 100 percent to begin next season and depth therafter. He would also give the Phillies the option of spot-starting McCutchen in center field on nights the Phillies want to sacrifice defense for offense. The issue is the Phillies in November or December won't have a great gauge on where McCutchen will be physically in March and April.
If the designated hitter was in the National League, this would be a no-brainer. And it does still seem like the NL will soon adopt the DH, just not within the next year or two. The Phillies may one day be able to DH a 35-year-old Bryce Harper but they won't be able to regularly DH a 30-year-old Dickerson in 2020.
Whether or not the Phillies get multiple years of Dickerson's production, his addition on July 31 moved the needle for the Phillies, unlike many of their in-season moves over the last calendar year. Put a league-average or worse hitter like Nick Williams or Sean Rodriguez in place of Dickerson in his 140 plate appearances as a Phillie and you're looking at maybe half the RBI total. Fewer runs mean fewer wins and the Phillies have needed all of them. They'd likely be a couple games worse without Dickerson.
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