In the San Diego Padres’ search for a left-handed bat, free agent Corey Dickerson could be a great choice.
When it comes to the offseason, there is a clear consensus amongst Padres’ fans that a front-of-the-line rotation piece is priority number one. However, the need for a left-handed bat in the lineup is another glaring issue.
When facing left-handed pitchers, San Diego hitters collected a .249/.330/.430 with an OPS of .760 but against right-handers, those numbers drop to .234/.301/.404 with an OPS of .705. Their collective .234 batting average against righties was tied with the Toronto Blue Jays for worst in the league. San Diego hitters also clocked in at or near the bottom of the league for WRC+ (86; 26th in the league), walk ratio (7.6%; 21st in the league), on-base percentage (.301; tied for 27th in the league), and wOBA (.299; 27th in the league).
The only thing they did accomplish? Striking out, evidenced by posting the second-highest strikeout rate (26.5%) and total number of strikeouts (1229) in baseball. The only team to do “better” than the boys in brown: the 47-119 Detroit Tigers, who led the league in both strikeout percentage (26.6%) and strikeouts in general (1253) against right-handed pitching.
The Padres lineup is in dire need of balancing. They cannot count on left-handed speedster Taylor Trammell coming up and making an impact, as he needs at least another year of seasoning in the minors. While they can hope that the offense turns a corner in 2020, having to expect that your offense can adequately hit right-handers is not something a team with playoff ambitions should deal with.
Instead, the San Diego front office brass must search outside of the organization for help. While paying top dollar for a man like Stephen Strasburg will provide the veteran ace the starting rotation needs, some extra money floated to a left-handed bat on the free-agent market would provide the stability that Jayce Tingler needs in his lineup.
Thankfully, a reliable and not-very expensive bat is available on the market right now that can set the Padres lineup on the path of becoming a well-oiled machine.
Enter free agent outfielder Corey Dickerson.
The outfielder split his season between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies while hitting to a collective .304/.341/.565 slash line with a 127 WRC+ and .262 ISO with the two teams. More importantly, he batted .313/.355/.587 with nine home runs against right-handers. Dickerson has never been one for talking walks (as evidenced by a 5.7% walk rate last season), but he tempers that flaw by keeping his strikeout numbers in check (he had a strikeout rate of just 19.8% in 2019).
While he did win a Gold Glove in 2018, his fielding metrics took a dive in 2019. According to Fangraphs, his Defensive Runs Saved dipped from 16 in 2018 to -6 in 2019 while both his UZR (-4.7) and range runs factor (-1.7) declined as well.
Injuries also hit Dickerson hard in 2019 as a shoulder strain suffered in early April forced him to miss almost 60 games. After getting traded to the Phillies on July 31st, his season was cut short after Philadelphia put him on the 60-Day IL with a fractured left foot. Because of these injuries, he was only able to play in 78 games and accumulate 279 plate appearances.
His injury history is concerning, yes, but in the past three seasons prior to 2019, Dickerson suited up for 148, 150, and 135 games with over 500 at-bats in each of those years. Plus, with an entire offseason to rehab, the 30-year-old would be cleared for baseball activity by Spring Training.
While Dickerson provides the much-needed boost to the offense, he would be another outfielder in what is still a crowded outfield situation. Even with Franmil Reyes and Travis Jankowski traded to other teams, there are still several outfielders who will be vying for one of two spots in the grass. Manuel Margot is currently the favorite to start in center field with Jankowski’s exit, but that still leaves Josh Naylor, Hunter Renfroe, Wil Myers, Nick Martini, and Franchy Cordero fighting for playing time.
Martini, Cordero, and Naylor are similar to Dickerson in that all hit from the left side of the plate, but each of the aforementioned three carry their own baggage. Martini, while showcasing a knack for getting on-base, is better suited as a fourth outfielder and not as an everyday starter. Cordero has all the tools to be a potential All-Star, but his high strikeout numbers and inability to stay on the field are becoming more and more of a concern. The 22-year-old Naylor accumulated a .249/.315/.403 batting line with an OPS of .719, but he is a former first baseman whose skillset would serve better as a designated hitter instead of patrolling the outfield.
With the case of Myers and Renfroe, both had their struggles against right-handed pitching last year. Looking at his splits, Myers struggled to a .705 OPS against right-handers while crushing left-handers to the tune of a .877 OPS. Renfroe’s splits are even more jarring, as his .733 OPS against right-handers pales in comparison to his .906 OPS while facing a left-handed pitcher. Myers’ struggles, combined with his contract, are the main reason he is currently being shopped to virtually any team that will listen, while Renfroe’s production didn’t just fall back to Earth in the second half of the season, it plummeted to the ground without a parachute. It made a Looney Tunes sized hole in the dirt upon impact.
Signing Dickerson to a short-term deal makes the Padres a viable threat against righties, and he would mix well with, surprisingly, Eric Hosmer. Despite the first baseman’s struggles this season, the left-handed Hosmer looked like a different hitter against right-handers with a batting line of .276/.321/.460, 21 home runs, and a .781 OPS. Of course, his tendency to hit too many ground balls and his less-than-stellar numbers against fellow lefties are crimson red flags, but that is a topic for another day.
The Padres want 2020 to be the year their playoff window opens, and to do that they are going to need a lineup that can hit pitchers from both sides of the plate. Signing Corey Dickerson won’t solve all of their problems, but it will alleviate one of their most nagging issues.