January 29, 2016
Elevation...Don't Go To My Head
If you're not familiar with Dickerson, here's what you need to know: he's a well-built feller whose bat is his selling point. He has more than enough strength and loft in his swing to threaten the 20-homer mark over any given full season, and seems as impressed with this truth as anyone, since he swings as often as most humans swallow. But, while Dickerson has few reservations about expanding his zone or flailing at the first pitch, he'll also do little things like minimize his leg kick in certain (read: two-strike) situations to prove he's more than a brain-dead hacker.
Just where does Dickerson fit onto the Rays' depth chart? Presumably in left field. The Rays have myriad candidates for the spot, but each carries a caveat. For instance, Desmond Jennings' knees hate the Tropicana Field turf, and he's as likely to get traded over the next few weeks as anyone on the roster. Meanwhile, the Rays don't seem to trust Brandon Guyer and Mikie Mahtook to play everyday—a fact that was never more evident than when they opted for Grady Sizemore down the stretch. Dickerson gives the Rays more offensive upside than all the above.
Obviously there are negatives to talk about, too. Dickerson's platoon splits suggest he should never see a left-hander in a meaningful spot—something that shouldn't be an issue, since Kevin Cash showed an ability to micromanage at-bats. Additionally, while he's more athletic than you'd expect, he's a below-average defender and baserunner, in part due to an outstanding case of plantar fasciitis. The other big blemish here is Dickerson's road performance. For his career, he has an OPS over 1.000 at Coors Field and an OPS below .700 elsewhere. The Rays are betting on his pop playing wherever, whenever.
The last big negative for the Rays is that they had to trade McGee to secure Dickerson's services, thereby leaving them with a bullpen comprised of hopes and prayers. Nonetheless, getting four years of a proven above-average hitter is hard to pass up—especially when he's cheap and in his prime. —R.J. Anderson
Padlo was a dual-sport standout at a California high school in basketball and baseball. By the time the 2014 Draft rolled around, questions surrounding his ability to make contact dampened his stock and he fell to Colorado in the fifth round after a stronger showing the summer previous.
Overall, Padlo’s addition to this trade is a classic Tampa Bay play for a under-the-radar prospect they can grab before his market value catches up with their internal assessment of his ceiling. Accordingly, Padlo has the physical frame and raw tool set of an everyday third baseman—albeit one who still carries prospect risk and is very far away from the major leagues. He holds 6-2/200 very athletically, and only moved off shortstop after turning pro. There isn’t much concern about his ability to remain on the left side of the infield. The questions instead are about whether his swing will allow consistent enough contact and loft for him to produce as much offensively as he’ll need to at a corner.
Despite a projectable body and strong hitting tools, Padlo’s swing lacked much balance when he entered pro ball. He lost his base and collapsed his back side, adding length to his swing and causing a steep uphill path. He’s made some adjustments in this regard—and still shows the same lashing, quick bat that allowed scouts to project power—but he still can get overly lengthy to the ball and only use the pullside in games.
From a statistical standpoint, Padlo has only boosted his stock since signing. If you ignore a very rough start to his first full pro season at Asheville—a somewhat aggressive assignment anyway—he’s been quietly among the more productive hitters from the 2014 draft class. Upon being demoted to the NWL after 20-some games in the SAL, Padlo nearly posted a .300+/.400+/.500+ triple-slash, walked in 14 percent of his plate appearances, and stole 30 bases. —Adam McInturff
The big loser in this trade is easily the hitter going from the hitter's haven of Coors Field to the catwalks of the Trop. However, Dickerson's issues go well beyond the elevation at which he resides in the short term. Playing time won't be an issue when he's healthy, but a player with plantar fascitis is not more likely to stay healthy playing on turf than he was on grass. Just ask Shannon Stewart. From a performance standpoint, the splits are going to be passed around heavily throughout draft season. Sure, he's a career .249/.286/.410 hitter away from Coors, with 15 homers in 454 at bats. Long have road splits been unreliable to project out for former Rockies as fantasy owners fall all over themselves to sell them while they still can, but Dickerson's value hasn't completely evaporated. He's still capable of hitting in the .260 range with 20-plus homers regardless of venue—and while the adjustment to the American League may be an initial struggle, there is an opportunity to buy on panic here. That said, it's a clear step down and Dickerson goes from an easy OF2 to a barely-hanging-on OF3 in non-shallow mixed formats.
Steven Souza/Desmond Jennings
Will either of these players stay healthy long enough for the Dickerson trade to affect them? Only time will tell, but one of them is going to lose playing time—and both have a predictable 100-plus point swing from their OPS against right-handers to their OPS against left-handers, making them both options for the short-side of a platoon with their new teammate. Of course, with the majestic power of Logan Morrison and James Loney occupying the first base and designated hitter slots, these are only very slight arrows down, as if they get benched, it's likely because they were awful anyway.
So, it looks like we finally know who the closer is for the Rays. Boxberger will always be a bit of a WHIP risk, but as far as potential 90 strikeout closers go, he's likely to be the least expensive heading into draft day. Look for him to be a top-15 closer this year. —Bret Sayre
Acquired LHP Jake McGee and RHP German Marquez from the Rays in exchange for OF-L Corey Dickerson and 3B-R Kevin Padlo [1/28]
Let’s not bury the lede: this is a pretty strange trade for the Rockies to make. Acquiring a stud reliever is usually a move that contending teams make, and the Rockies are the opposite of a contending team. They’re an...un-tending team? Distending team? Non-tending? They’re bad.
Of course, as snarky as Baseball Twitter gets, we live in a world where unexpected trades or deals that don’t make much sense at first sometimes pan out. And the best way to determine if a trade pans out is to get the best player in the deal. There may actually be a case that the Rockies did that here. Dickerson is a useful platoon outfielder with an above-average bat, but McGee is a terrific reliever.
Like Dickerson, McGee was at his best not last year, but the prior season. In 2014, he posted a terrific strikeout rate (11.4 K/9), limited walks (2.0 BB/9), and gave up just two home runs over 71+ innings. He checked every single box on the “elite closer” checklist, and if it weren’t for Wade Davis, he probably would have gotten a bit more attention. In 2015, McGee missed time with injury, but when he pitched, he was almost as good, except in one area: home runs. This time, he gave up three dingers in under 40 innings, and his FIP, cFIP, ERA, and DRA all suffered as a result.
As a one-and-a-half-pitch closer with just a grotesque heater and a rarely-used buckler curve, McGee’s a flyball pitcher who’s a bit of a homer risk. Fortunately, the rest of his peripherals are both strong and fairly consistent. His strikeout rate has remained very high even as he lost a little fastball velocity in 2015, and his curve gets ground balls and whiffs the few times he uses it. As a flyball pitcher in Coors Field, he’ll surely make some Rockies fans nervous, but McGee seems talented enough to succeed even in the toughest pitcher’s park in baseball, provided he can avoid further injury.
So the Rockies dealt from their surplus of outfielders (more on this in a second), to acquire a good, but not elite closer. The first question here might be “why?” It’s nice to trade from a strength to fill a need—and the end of the bullpen is weak—but does this address a “need” or a “want?” Does a team that looks destined to hit the bottom of the NL West again benefit from having an improved closer two years away from free agency?
Perhaps the thought is that the Rockies can flip McGee either now or at the deadline for player that may be part of the next great Rockies team in 2019? Perhaps the team thinks that they’re closer to contention than I do? I really don’t know. And this is kind of a problem—we don’t know. Most teams have a modus operandi, an identity, or at least the inklings of a plan. On the other hand, the Rockies had three pretty-good outfielders, but then signed another pretty-good outfielder to a reasonable contract...so they could trade an outfielder for a pitcher they probably didn’t need. Signing Gerardo Parra is great and everything, but this looks like a mild re-shuffling of an existing paradigm. The team still has a rotation that in 2015 was the worst in baseball, worse even than the Phillies. THE PHILLIES. It doesn't appear to have improved this offseason, either.
The problem with this deal isn’t that the Rockies traded Corey Dickerson. The problem is that what they got in return doesn’t bode well for the team’s long-term future, and doesn't address the team's biggest issues.
The Rockies are a team without identity, or what appears to be a cogent long-term plan. Sometimes, the best plan a team can have is “acquire the most talented players you can.” Maybe that’s the Rockies’ plan, but if so, you have to think they didn’t do that here. By dealing for a reliever without a ton of team control—even if he’s a good one—the team appears to be display a win-now attitude. Sure, there’s a chance the Rockies could flip McGee for talent before the trade deadline, but does anyone think that the southpaw will actually raise his stock in the interim?
No, McGee may survive in the rare air of Colorado, but I’m not sure he’ll thrive. He’s not exactly a sure thing, which is appropriate because the Rockies are a mountain of maybes. Maybe they’ll deal McGee later. Maybe this was the best offer they could get for their extra outfield piece. Maybe one day, we’ll understand what this was all about. —Bryan Grosnick
Marquez was the Rays' "big get" in the 2011 international class, and while his development has been slow, he took a big step forward in 2015, showing three usable offerings and and a 3.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His four-seam fastball sits 90-93 mph, occasionally touching the mid-90s with some late run. His curveball is a solid-average pitch without huge break or depth, but enough of both to keep hitters honest. He'll also throw this pitch for a strike when he stays on top of it, giving him a chance to get ahead of hitters with it, which is always nice. The change is the weakest of the three offerings, flashing average with so-so arm speed and a smidgen of tilt. He throws all three pitches for strikes, and he's generally within the margin of error in terms of hitting his spots.
This is a back-end profile, but because of his ability to pound the strike zone you could see him move quickly and become a member of a rotation in the next couple of years. If unconvinced, you could try him in the bullpen and see if the stuff plays up in shorter spurts. Weirder things have happened. —Christopher Crawford
Every Rockies Outfielder
"Hey, guys. We're not being traded! And our playing time isn't going to get cut!"
Sometimes it's just that simple. Charlie Blackmon has his dynasty league value reinforced, as the chance of him being dealt at this point are pretty slim, and he remains a solid OF1 in fantasy leagues this year. There's always the chance they still trade Carlos Gonzalez, but it's unlikely to happen until the All-Star Break at the earliest. He's locked in as a strong OF2. Then there's the new addition, Parra, who should sneak his way into OF3 status without any impediments to 500 at bats for the Rockies this year. And there was much rejoicing.
So, it looks like we finally know who the closer is for the Rockies. McGee goes to a much worse home park, but because saves are saves, he gets a huge bump in value. His ERA may be closer to 3.00 than in recent years, but with 80-plus strikeouts a very strong possibility, the Rockies now have a closer who will not be a bottom-10 option. I know, it will take some getting used to. —Bret Sayre
R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @r_j_anderson