Last week it was reported that the White Sox were in the market for a veteran presence to slot into designated hitter. While there were some intriguing options on the open market, up until now it seems the Sox are willing to give players from within such as Matt Davidson, the opportunity to take control of the spot. Then yesterday a new name became available unexpectedly.
The Tampa Bay Rays, after acquiring C.J. Cron from the Angels, designated their lone all-star representative from a year ago for assignment, Corey Dickerson. On paper, Dickerson fits everything the White Sox would want in a veteran, middle of the order bat.
Only 28, and under team control until after the 2020 season. Dickerson is also coming off the first All-Star appearance of his career. The All-Star nod was well earned for Dickerson. He slugged 17 home runs, to go along with 42 RBI’s all on top of a .312 batting average in the first half of 2017. Dickerson is a left-handed bat as well, which would help protect Jose Abreu in the lineup, and perhaps squeeze even more production out of him.
So when a relatively young talent, fresh off the best year of his career becomes available, why would the Sox pass on that? Well, there are a number of reasons why this seemingly can’t miss player would be avoided by the Sox.
The first issue that must be considered when thinking of adding Dickerson is who will see a decrease in their plate appearances? If signed, Dickerson would no doubt be an everyday starter at one of two positions. Either left field, or designated hitter. That means that as it sits currently, either Matt Davidson or Nicky Delmonico would stand to see a significant reduction in their at bats. Delmonico and Dickerson are both left handed bats that can fill in at designated hitter, while Davidson is a right handed hitter that slots primarily at designated hitter but can fill in at first or third.
In all likelihood, it would be Davidson that would draw the short straw if the Sox were to bring on Dickerson. Delmonico and Dickerson would likely split time with each other between left field and designated hitter. At this point the question becomes, with where the Sox are at in the rebuild, do they want to slash Davidson’s at bats? Davidson is two years younger than Dickerson and coming off a relatively successful first full year in the majors, which saw him bash 26 home runs. Davidson is also under team control for two years longer than Dickerson. All that considered, Dickerson probably still provides more value to the White Sox lineup at this point in time.
Despite his impressive power numbers, Matt Davidson struggled with strikeouts, and getting on base. Striking out at a 37 percent clip and only getting on base only 26 percent of the time. In Dickerson, the Sox would be bringing on a man who struck out 13 percent less than Davidson at 24 percent, and reached base at a respectable .325 clip. That’s not to say Davidson won’t improve and Dickerson won’t regress a bit, but at 28-years old Dickerson is a fairly good bet to put up good numbers similar to those a year ago. If the issue for the Sox is giving up Davidson’s at bats, Dickerson is likely still a good addition to the lineup.
The second issue with Dickerson is a fairly obvious one, we don’t know if last year for Dickerson was really him or not. Dickerson’s first half last year was clearly all-star worthy. His second half was an entirely different story. Dickerson hit only .241 with 10 home runs in the second half last year. He also struck out at 28% compared to his first half percentage at 21%. Dickerson’s on base percentage also dropped from .355 to .282. The second half regression from Dickerson was almost shocking. He was almost an entirely different hitter after June, and never recovered his form from the first two months of the season.
It’s hard to know exactly what to make of Dickerson’s second half regression, but the obvious take away is that it’s a major red flag. Dickerson’s numbers for the entire year stack up favorably to his 2016, suggesting a fair amount of consistency from the lefty, but his second half last year was one of the worst stretches of his young career. For many hitters, once the proverbial book is written on them, that’s that. We don’t know if that is the case with Dickerson but it is certainly possible. Dickerson may also have been dealing with a nagging injury, or suffered from a lack of protection in a weak Rays lineup. All things considered, It certainly makes Dickerson a bigger risk than it appears his 2017 numbers suggest. It is also worth noting that Davidson had similar struggles in the second half of last year, hitting only .185 in the second half.
Finally when it comes to considering Dickerson we must consider if he fits the player profile the Sox are looking for. Dickerson is a top of the order, left handed bat that can get on base at a decent rate and can hit for power. If we ignore his second half struggles last year Dickerson is a perfect fit for the Sox. His second half is concerning and fits the profile of a player the Sox no longer want anything to do with. The last thing the Sox want is another left handed player, prone to striking out and not getting on base.
When playing to his full potential, Dickerson appears to be exactly what the Sox are looking for. They have a perceived hole at designated hitter and Dickerson was not supposed to be available, just a year removed from an all star appearance. Dickerson’s spray chart shows an ability to hit to all fields, and his numbers show he can get on base.
The Sox may be wary of slashing the at-bats of a young player already in the organization, and Dickerson’s second half last year is also eye brow raising for the wrong reasons. All things considered all stars do not usually become available right before spring training, and with the Sox already reportedly in the market for a designated hitter, Dickerson seems to make a lot of sense. The Sox may be content with their designated hitter situation, but if they are not and are looking for an option other than Davidson, then Dickerson is likely worth a call in the coming days.