Bringing back Dickerson could be complicated
So, you’re telling me there’s a chance?
The Phillies kept their playoff hopes alive Tuesday night, moved past the Diamondbacks, picked up a game on the Cubs, and maintained their distance from the Brewers with a big win over the Braves. The gauntlet isn’t over yet, as they face a difficult schedule ahead.
But they’re not dead yet.
The Phillies moved a halfgame past the Diamondbacks and are a game behind Milwaukee, and a game better than the Mets. The Cubs, who lost to the Padres on Tuesday night, are two games better than the Phillies. The Brewers have an easy schedule but lost MVP candidate Christian Yelich for the season after he fractured his kneecap in the team’s win Tuesday night.
Fangraphs, Inquirer reporter Bob Brookover reports, gives the Phillies a 4.7% chance to reach the playoffs, which is nearly three times higher than the odds were Friday night in New York.
The Phillies are not yet ready to think about next season, but they soon will have to, and one of the pressing questions will be what they should do with Corey Dickerson. Dickerson, who will become a free agent after the season, hit two more homers Tuesday night and has a .906 OPS in 33 games with the Phillies and has been terrific since they added him at the trade deadline.
“I think we have pointed to some of the swing changes and how competitive he is in the batter’s box. One of the things we are noticing is that left or right, he’s probably got to be in the lineup right now,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “And if a left-handed reliever comes into the game, we almost feel comfortable and confident in Corey.
“I know the Pirates were using him in a platoon role. But certainly he looks dangerous against left-handers and righthanders and perhaps has really made a change for the better in his career.”
The Phillies are better with Dickerson on the roster, but bringing him back in 2020 is a bit complicated. Most likely, he’ll want to play every day, and he’s played well enough in the second half that other teams should be after him.
“I’ve loved it here,” Dickerson said. “That’s out of my control, especially watching the freeagent market lately. It’s pretty crazy. I just hope I don’t get a minor-league deal. No, it’s great. I’ve enjoyed my time here and I’m going to do my best to finish strong with these guys and compete and have fun and be a good teammate, and all that stuff will work out.”
Dickerson, who will turn 31 in May, has never been a free agent. The Phillies are unable to offer him an everyday role, which could force him to go elsewhere. But they could make room for him on the bench in a platoon role.
He’s limited to left field, as are Andrew McCutchen and Jay Bruce, both of whom are already under contract for 2020. The Phillies owe McCutchen $40 million over the next two seasons, and they want that money playing every day.
McCutchen, who is expected to be healthy for spring training, started 10 games this season in center, but it could be a challenge for him to play there next season as he turns 33 and returns from a torn ACL. Dickerson said he can play center, but the Phillies have not used him there. The starting outfielders project to be McCutchen in left, Adam Haseley in center, and Bryce Harper in right.
The Phillies will have a fiveman bench in 2020 as rosters expand to 26, but they value versatility and it’s unlikely they would sacrifice that to have two left-handed hitters, Bruce and Dickerson, who are limited to left field.
Seattle is paying for most of Bruce’s contract next season, which could allow the Phillies to move him this winter. Bruce was a great addition after arriving in June, but he’s battled injuries and could be better suited for the American League. If so, the Phillies would then have room for Dickerson, who could be used in a platoon role with McCutchen and allow the Phillies to ease McCutchen back from injury.
So there’s a path to having Dickerson on the roster, but the Phillies won’t be the only team after him.
“I love it. First class. Great group of guys here,” Dickerson said. “The city has been great. I love the fan base. Love how it’s tough to play here for the opposing team.”
Rick Kranitz said he wasn’t scared to be without a job in November, but he was mad when the Phillies fired him. The former Phillies pitching coach is now enjoying life with the first-place Braves, who have built a coaching staff of veteran coaches instead of one built around analytics.
The Phillies fired Kranitz to promote Chris Young, whom Gabe Kapler defended before Tuesday night’s game even though, as Inquirer reporter Scott Lauber writes, most of the team’s pitchers have either regressed or stagnated under Young’s watch. “I think we’ve seen some improvements over the course of the last six weeks. That stands out to me,” Kapler said.
The Phillies have rarely let Adam Haseley face left-handed pitching even though he had success against lefties in the minor leagues. “We are trying to kind of ease him into this role with some sensitivity and try to set up Hase for success,” Kapler said. “One of the ways to do that is to try to look for the matchups that might be especially difficult and give him a break in those matchups.”
Bryce Harper’s home run in the first inning Tuesday was his 13th this season off left-handed pitching, which trails Cody Bellinger’s 17 with the Dodgers for the most in baseball among lefty hitters.
Since 1961, the only other left-handed batter for the Phillies with more than 13 homers against lefties is Ryan Howard, who hit 16 in 2006 and 2007 and 14 in 2008. Raul Ibanez (2009) and Chase Utley (2008) both hit 13.
Harper’s homer was one of three the Phillies hit in the first inning, which was the first time they did that since July 6, 2009, against Cincinnati.
Corey Dickerson will become a free agent after the season. He hit two homers Tuesday night against the Braves and has a .906 OPS in 33 games with the Phillies.