Corey Dickerson has emerged as the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ best player this year, leading the team with a .323 batting average, which is the sixth best in the National League. His hot start has propelled the surprising Bucs to a 26-21 record in the National League’s Central Division, where they trail the first-place St. Louis Cardinals by a game. Dickerson, who bats left and plays left field, leads the Bucs with 26 runs batted in, 10 doubles and 43 hits. He’s tied for second on the team with five homers.
Dickerson has also been outstanding the field. Not known for his defense, he’s tied with four others, including fellow outfielder Starling Marte, for the lead in the National League with four assists. He’s not made an error in 68 total chances and has 64 putouts.
Corey Dickerson Faces Uncertain Future in Pittsburgh
The Bucs acquired Dickerson last February after the Tampa Bay Rays designated him for assignment. He was dealt to the Bucs in exchange for relief pitcher Daniel Hudson and minor league prospect Tristan Gray.
The designation came as a surprise to many as Dickerson hit .282 with a career-high 27 homers, 33 doubles and 62 RBI last year. Dickerson, who broke into the majors in 2013 with the Colorado Rockies, had 90 career homers going into this year.
Fans want long-term deal for Corey Dickerson
Dickerson’s sizzling start to the season has many Bucco fans calling for the team to sign him to a long-term deal. However, that seems rather unlikely given the way the Nuttings, who own the Pirates, operate the team.
The fact is that Dickerson is making $5.95 million this year with Tampa Bay paying about $1 million of the salary. He’ll be eligible for arbitration next year and if he keeps hitting the way he has been this year, he could be due for a sizable raise. After next year, he’ll become a free agent and could command a multi-year contract for some huge numbers, which the Pirates could find prohibitive.
Pirates have big plans for Austin Meadows
Factoring in the Pirates plans is the play of highly-touted outfield prospect Austin Meadows, who was the ninth pick in the 2013 draft. Meadows was hampered by injuries the past two years, but has been healthy this year. He started strong, batting .319 as of May 1. But he’s mired in a slump, collecting only seven hits in his last 29 at bats. His batting average has dropped to .276.
Still the Pirates remain high on Meadows and there’s no doubt he’ll be much cheaper than Dickerson at least for the next several years.
Ideally, the Pirates could try to trade right fielder Gregory Polanco to make room for Meadows. But he’s off to a slows start with a .225 batting average although he has seven homers and 20 runs batted in. The problem with Polanco is he’s due to make $8 million next year and $11 million the following year. It’s hard to see a team making a deal for Polanco unless he heats up considerably as the year goes on.
For better or worse, the Pirates appear stuck with Polanco. So, it seem likely that Dickerson will be traded at some point. It’s worth noting that Dickerson faltered badly in the second half last year. After hitting 20 homers and batting .312 in the first half of the season, he was named to the American League All-Star team. But he hit only seven four-baggers the rest of the way along with 10 homers and 20 RBI. His season bottomed out in September when he hit .202 with two homers and four RBI. In 74 at bats last September, he struck out 25 times. That probably had something to do with Tampa Bay designating Dickerson for reassignment in the off-season.
Corey Dickerson solves strikeout problem
Striking out is one problem that Dickerson has solved this season. In 133 at bats, he’s whiffed only 14 times. Last year, he struck out 152 times in 588 at bats, more than double his strikeout ratio this year.
So, the Pirates might be wise indeed to wait and see how Dickerson does in the second half of the season. If he cools off, it could make a trade more palatable. But if he continues his torrid pace, the Pirates might have another rebellion on their hands if they try to trade Dickerson before or after the season ends. It could make the fuss over the trading of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole this past off-season look like child’s play.
McCutchen homecoming will be interesting
It will be an interesting weekend for the Pirates as McCutchen and the San Francisco Giants coming to town for a three-game series. McCutchen played nine seasons for the Pirates, helping them end their 20-year losing streak and sparking them to three straight playoff appearances from 2013-2015.
McCutchen was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2013 and finished third twice. He was named to five National League All-Star teams.
It certainly will be interesting to see how fans react to McCutchen but the big question will how many fans turn out for the series. The Pirates are currently next to last in attendance in all of Major League Baseball, averaging only 13,833 fans per game. That’s down considerably from an average of 23,696 fans last year.
Some of the apathy can be blamed on the weather. This April was one of the coldest and wettest in quite some time. But there’s no doubt that many fans were upset with the trading of McCutchen and Cole and failed to renew their season tickets.
So, you can bet Pirates officials will be watching those attendance numbers very carefully this weekend.
Pirates play last-place teams
No matter what the Pirates do against the Giants this weekend, they should be able to continue their winning ways in the near future as their next 10 games are against the Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds, all last-place teams.
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