SARASOTA, FLA. — There’s plenty to sort out after a wild Saturday night around baseball, and some of the activity will affect the Orioles’ pursuit for upgrades.
The most head-scratching move of the offseason set off a flurry of moves Saturday, when the Tampa Bay Rays designated power-hitting outfielder/designated hitter Corey Dickerson for assignment to make space to acquire first baseman C.J. Cron from the Los Angeles Angels.
Dickerson, 28, posted a .282 average, hit 27 homers and had an .815 OPS with the Rays last season, and as an arbitration-eligible player with still two years under team control, he was going to make less than $5.95 million this season.
The Orioles will undoubtedly inquire about Dickerson, who must be traded, released or passed through waivers within the next 10 days. He will not clear waivers, so the Rays are stuck trying to see what they can get for him in a trade.
On the surface, the only way to explain the move is that Tampa Bay is continuing to shed payroll. A trade could obviously shed Dickerson’s entire salary, and if he released, the Rays would only be responsible for 1/6th of this season’s salary.
Dickerson would give the Orioles the left-handed batter they’ve coveted all offseason to balance a lineup that currently has just one lefty hitter in first baseman Chris Davis. Seeing Dickerson regularly in the division, manager Buck Showalter has been complimentary of him is the past. Despite being division rivals, the Orioles and Rays have been willing trade partners, consummating deals at the trade deadline in each of the past two years, including last year’s deal for infielder Tim Beckham.
However, Dickerson does represent much of the same for a feast-or-famine Orioles lineup that is too often prone to deep slumps. Dickerson struggled mightily in the second half of last season, and his OPS after the break was .690 after it was .903 in an All-Star first half.
The Orioles’ outfield need is in right field, and most of Dickerson’s experience has been in left, where Trey Mancini is currently the starter. That might not be as big a concern though, because there was some consideration in the offseason to give Mancini a look in right field because the Orioles have some left field prospect depth in the minor leagues.
Dickerson is more known for his bat than his glove, but in his two years with the Rays, playing beside Gold Glove winner Kevin Kiermaier, he’s been an average outfielder, posting plus-1 defensive runs saved.
The Rays remained busy, dealing right-hander Jake Odorizzi to the Minnesota Twins for shortstop prospect Jermaine Palacios.
This is interesting because, along with the Orioles, the Twins appeared to be one of the front runners for right-hander Chris Tillman, who is expected to find a home within the next two days. Over the past two days, the Twins have added a solid starter in Odorizzi and also signed Aníbal Sánchez to a one-year deal.
Minnesota, which has shown it’s ready to spend this offseason with its pursuit of Yu Darvish, very well could still make a play for one of the top remaining free-agent starters such as Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn, but its staff is getting crowded.
Tillman wants to get into a camp soon, and the Twins’ recent flurry might make a reunion with the Orioles more likely, but we will learn his landing spot very soon.